This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More Bear Stories


IT SEEMS TO BE THE WEEK FOR BEAR STORIES. This is from the Stoneham Independent, the local rag here, whose usual stories are 'family-friendly' pieces on cheerleading camp, and interviews with residents 'serving bravely overseas to protect our freedom'-- which is why I tend to avoid it like the plague. But this piece caught my eye. Like many people I have mixed feelings about zoos, but if they teach a new generation to love and care for our wildlife, than that's a good thing. As people-bear contacts increase in this area, it's also helpful for people to become more accquainted with bear behavior. They are very smart, adaptable, and educable-- traits not always evident in every species inhabiting this area.




New Black Bear exhibit set to debut at Stone Zoo this spring
By Joe Haggerty
Published on February 13th, 2008

STONEHAM, MA - There was a time in Stone Zoo's long and storied Stoneham past where you could have exclaimed 'Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!' -- and the animals would have likely been within earshot of the human voices from a nearby exhibit
The Golden Age of the beloved Stone Zoo may have passed more than 20 years ago, but the bears are returning to Stone Zoo.
Zoo New England officials announced earlier this week that a pair of Black Bears will be the newest stars of a brand new exhibit planned to be open at the zoo by Memorial Day weekend.
Local politicians Richard Tisei, Paul Casey, Paul Natale and Paul Donato all attended the ceremony, and echoed the excitement of zoo officials at the new exhibit that should mark the dawn of a new day for the historic zoo.
"Stone Zoo is entering a period of dramatic growth - one that will build on this beloved institution's rich history, while transforming this "local gem" into a leading example of what a modern zoo can, and should, be," said Zoo New England President Paul Linehan. "Stone Zoo is taking a big step forward toward reaching this goal with the new black bear exhibit."
The new bear exhibit is expected to cost roughly $750,000 to construct and will be built in the same area that Stone Zoo's Major the Polar Bear called home for over two decades. Major passed away in 2000, but has lived in the memories of those that regularly attended the zoo and through the scholarship established by the SBCEF. Zoo New England is planning to build a naturalistic habitat for the black bears - using the foundation of Major's former home, filling in the moats and creating an engaging and stimulating space for the bears. The exhibit is located within the zoo's Yukon Creek section, an area of the zoo highlighting North American animals including bald eagles, Canada lynx, gray fox and porcupine.
The Bears are a pair of two-year-old brothers that will join Stone Zoo from the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) in Tennessee.
The bears' care is being managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), which oversees the permit of ABR for rehabilitating bears for release back into the wild. Both bears were confiscated as cubs in the state of Georgia in 2006. Soon after arriving at ABR, it was determined that the bears could not be rehabilitated for release back into the wild. If a suitable home had not been found for the two bears, they would have been euthanized.
The two bears, which weigh approximately 250 pounds, are part of a species whose overall wild population is stable at this time. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group, a moratorium has been issued on all captive breeding of the black bear species in AZA facilities in order to encourage zoos to accept "rescued" bears in place of expanding the captive-born population. The highest priority in placing bears is given to orphaned cubs held by appropriate government agencies, their designees or licensed wildlife rehabilitators.
"New England has a large population of black bears in the wild and the separation between their habitat and ours is shrinking," said Linehan. "By building this new exhibit and giving a much-needed home to these bears, we hope to educate people about these incredible animals and the ecosystem we all share."
Commodore Builders are the construction managers for the project, which is budgeted at $750,000. ZNE has already secured $500,000 in private funding. Lead donors to the project include ZNE Board of Directors Chair Grace Fey and her husband Ted, a bequest from the estate of longtime Stone Zoo visitor Ernestina Vinet, and another anonymous donor. Fundraising efforts are ongoing.
In celebration of this new exhibit, ZNE will present the wildly popular tasting event, A Wild Affair, on June 21. This will mark the fourth annual A Wild Affair - an event that attracts hundreds of attendees and Stone Zoo supporters from Stoneham and the surrounding communities.

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