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Cuteness overload: brown bear cubs becoming best buds

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photo and video by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Brown bear cub, Juniper, and grizzly bear cub, Fern, are exploring their outdoor habitat together, and it’s double trouble, double adorable!

Juniper’s presence has helped Fern acclimate to her new home much faster than usual. “Fern is responding to behavioral training and is making herself at home. Having Juniper here has truly helped,” said Erin Sullivan, an animal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “The cubs are fast becoming best buds and Juniper has taken Fern under her wing. Zoo-goers are going to really enjoy watching the cubs grow, play and get into mischief together.”

The naturalistic setting for the brown bears in the Living Northwest Trail offers a wealth of enrichment including a braided, flowing stream; a bear-sized swimming pool with live fish; exhibit “furniture” such as rocks for basking in the sun; tree stumps that make great scratching posts; browse and novel scents; and a quiet cave for winter naps.

Meet Fern
Grizzly bear cub Fern was born this past winter in Montana and arrived as a rescue at Woodland Park Zoo in October. Fern currently weighs 167 pounds. She can be distinguished from Juniper by her longer snout and smaller stature.

Meet Juniper
Brown bear cub Juniper was found roaming alone near an air force base in Anchorage, Alaska. Like Fern, she was born this past winter and is about the same age as Fern. Juniper immediately became the zoo’s darling when she met the public for the first time in August. She currently weighs 256 pounds and is markedly larger than Fern.

Both cubs were too young to survive on their own. Bear cubs learn everything about being a bear directly from their mother including hunting, foraging and other skills to survive. In addition, brown bears are not rehabilitated.

“Being bear smart is critical to coexisting with carnivores,” said Kevin Murphy, senior director of Animal Care at Woodland Park Zoo. “We know it’s possible to coexist with bears and share our beautiful landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Keeping garbage in secure containers and only putting it out on collection day, not feeding birds when one lives in bear habitat, and keeping pet food and other attractants in a secure building are simple precautions that people can take at home to keep bears, humans and other wildlife safe.”  

Brown bears and grizzly bears belong to the same species, Ursus arctos, although the common name, “brown bear,” typically refers to a coastal bear, while “grizzly bear” usually refers to a (smaller) inland bear. Scientifically speaking, all grizzlies are brown bears, but not all brown bears are grizzlies. Meanwhile, American black bears are an entirely separate species (Ursus americanus), although some black bears do have brown fur! Brown bears are generally solitary in nature but come together during mating season and in concentrated feeding areas such as at salmon spawning sites.

While discovering Juniper, Fern and the zoo’s other grizzly, 28-year-old Keema, remember to stop by the zoo’s new lynx exhibit and Cathy Herzig Basecamp Northwest, which just opened last week in the Living Northwest Trail.

When can you visit Juniper and Fern? The cubs are on a rotational routine with Keema, typically Keema will be out for about an hour and then the two cubs and so on... there is not a set schedule because cubs will be cubs. Our advice is to check the Living Northwest Trail when you arrive and if the cubs are not out, swing back in about 45 minutes to an hour.

Brown bears are an iconic species, and these new cubs are a symbol of hope to restore grizzlies in the North Cascades. 

Grizzly Bear Recovery

Federal government agencies are considering recovering grizzly bears to the North Cascades, and they want to hear from you. Grizzlies roamed over 6 million acres of North Cascades’ wildlands for centuries until they were hunted into regional extinction in the 1800s – they truly belong here. Grizzlies contribute to a thriving ecosystem by aerating soil and dispersing plant seeds – they are part of nature’s delicate balance. Washingtonians already know how to coexist with wildlife, including bears – bear safety and awareness will always be a top priority. Bottom line: it’s time to bring them back. Join us in this important public process and submit a comment.

Woodland Park Zoo is a proud member of the Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Coalition, advocating the restoration of a healthy population of grizzly bears to Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem.

Woodland Park Zoo advocates for saving species and spaces around the Pacific Northwest through its Living Northwest Conservation Program, including lynx, wolverines and many others. The exhibit and its companion website, “We Are Living Northwest,” provide visitors with numerous conservation actions to take to help the species that share the region’s iconic landscapes. Anyone can share how they are living Northwest using #IAmLivingNorthwest on social media—they may even be featured on the new kiosk in Living Northwest Trail!

Stay tuned for updates on both cubs at: