Guests and members will soon get new views of Emmett and Digger, CMZoo’s nearly 19-year-old grizzly bears. When the project is complete, visitors will get different perspectives of the bears from ground level and from an additional guest viewing area. Ongoing improvements to the bears’ habitat – including the recently completed waterfall in their north yard – will also make it better suited to provide homes for potential orphaned cubs in need of human care.
Starting in January, the grizzly bear area in Rocky Mountain Wild will be closed while the Zoo manages these projects. The estimated reopening date is early summer 2024, and teams will be pushing themselves to meet (or beat!) that deadline. Because the vast majority of the work will occur outside of the grizzlies’ habitat, Emmett and Digger will have access to their indoor and outdoor spaces as usual. They will, of course, continue to receive daily care, enrichment, training and interactions with keepers and staff.
“One of the most noticeable changes for our guests will be the removal of the grizzly bear boardwalk,” said Dave Ruhl, CMZoo executive vice president. “We’re decommissioning the elevator and building new pathways that we believe will provide better access for our guests visiting the grizzlies. We have something really fun in mind for the future of the elevator tower.”
The elevator tower will stay in place as a future play feature, with giant tube slides attached to its sides. Guests will be able to take the stairs up, as they can now, but instead of walking to the boardwalk, they can either slide back down or enjoy the view and walk down the stairs.
The current grizzly viewing area, by the grizzlies’ pool, will stay in place. Guests will access it via a paved sidewalk and ramp similar to the sloped sidewalk from African Rift Valley to the main road. A second guest viewing area will be built at the base of the grizzlies’ north yard. The future path to grizzly viewing will start near the end of the Asian Highlands tiger bridge.
Additionally, the grizzlies will get new outdoor overnight spaces, so they can choose to sleep inside or outside. New gates and spaces in separate yards also give the Zoo the opportunity to provide homes for wild orphaned bear cubs in the future. With new access points, keepers could care for Emmett and Digger in one set of spaces and cubs in another.
“We believe these changes are going to improve both guest experiences and animal experiences,” said Ruhl. “There are no current plans to welcome cubs to the Zoo, but unfortunately, wildlife officials need to find homes for orphaned cubs nearly every year. If we can give them a second chance at life by providing a safe home for them, we will.”
CMZoo will provide updates on the grizzlies and the new-and-improved guest areas as progress continues.