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Salmon toss kicks off this weekend’s Bear Affair

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

The fishmongers toss salmon in front of the grizzly exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The scene: Pike Place Fish Market fishmongers gather in front of Woodland Park Zoo’s famous brown bear exhibit, as grizzly brothers Keema and Denali go into overdrive sniffing out the scent of salmon in the air.

The bears catch the scent. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This moment feels so perfectly Seattle.

Bear. Woodland Park Zoo. Salmon. Pike Place Fish Market. So Seattle. Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Then the toss begins.

Tossing a "stunt" salmon. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

If you've seen the famous fish tossing at Pike Place Fish Market, you’ll know the rush of excitement that runs through the crowd as the fishmongers toss what they call a “stunt fish” back and forth. You hold your breath each time to see if they’ll catch it. Unless you’re a grizzly bear. In that case, you’re probably hoping they cut it out and just send that salmon flying your way.

There's the pitch! Photo by Stan Milkowski/Woodland Park Zoo.

But don’t worry, Keema and Denali. The salmon is on its way!

Success! Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Today’s fish toss was held for press to help get the word out about this Saturday’s Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation presented by Brown Bear Car Wash. Bear Affair activities focus on bears, wolves, raptors and other Pacific Northwest wildlife. A highlight will be the grizzlies ransacking a mock backyard wedding reception set up in their exhibit as well as a camp site.

The bears will crash a mock backyard wedding set up in their exhibit during Bear Affair this Sat., June 7. Photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.

Zoo staff and conservation experts will be on hand to share safety tips, and information on what these animals need to survive in the wild, how to help keep these animals safe from humans and what humans can do to peacefully co-exist. Conservation and community partners include Western Wildlife Outreach, Vital Ground, Wolf Haven, and National Parks Conservation Association. Karelian bear dogs return to demonstrate how the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife partner dogs play an essential role in training nuisance bears and cougars to avoid human contact. Boy Scout Troop 638 shares safety camping tips, and kids can make a butterfly garden marker and take home sunflower seeds for planting.

Original photo by Mat Hayward/WPZ; modified.

If you want to test your bear-smarts before heading to Bear Affair, take the quiz to find out if you’re a Bear-Smart Camper. Then pick up wildlife safety tips at the event, or tune into the bear demonstrations on the live streaming Bear Cam.