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The Suburbanite
  • Bears roar at spacious, new Akron Zoo home

  • Two grizzly bears are at the heart of The Akron Zoo's most ambitious expansion to date.

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  • Two large attractions are at the center of the biggest expansion in the history of the Akron Zoo.
    Jackson and Cheyenne, a pair of 2-year-old grizzly bears, are the residents of Grizzly Ridge – the centerpiece of a 4-acre expansion. The project, funded primarily through county funding and private donations, opened to the public July 20.
    Jackson and Cheyenne currently weigh about 300 pounds. The bears will eventually weigh between 600 and 800 pounds.
    They lived at the Cleveland Zoo before arriving in Akron and came to Ohio after being orphaned in Wyoming. Their enclosure at the Akron Zoo is 17,000 sq.ft., making it the largest exhibit at the zoo. It sits atop a hill overlooking not only the zoo itself, but the skyline of downtown Akron.
    The enclosure includes a 4-foot-deep pool for the bears to swim in and two heated rocks that extend under the barrier between visitors and the animals. That will allow visitors to occupy the same rock as Jackson and Cheyenne, Director of Marketing and Guest Services David Barnhardt said.
    Visitors can also get a glimpse of behind-the-scenes work between zoo keepers and the bears through a training wall that will be open at certain times during the day and for behind-the-scenes tours.
    The enclosure is located on the same site as a bear exhibit that opened in 1918, 35 years before the zoo was founded. The original exhibit closed several years later. The design of the bear porch at the new exhibit is based on the design of the Mustill Store building, located near the Towpath Trail and built in the 1850s.
    MORE THAN BEARS
    Four other types of animals are part of the new exhibit: Bald eagles, red wolves, coyotes and river otters. The coyotes are not expected to arrive until late August or September because the pups are part of a late litter and are not old enough to be transported to the zoo yet.
    Five bald eagles, three river otters and two red wolves are on display. For the eagles – Unity, Wayne, Lakota, Petry and Spirit – their new home is five times larger than the previous space for eagles at the zoo. The quintet represents the most bald eagles ever exhibited at the zoo at one time.
    "Hunger Games" fans will be able to appreciate the red wolf exhibit, where Rue and Katniss reside. The pair, which are 2-years-old, come from Miller Park Zoo in Illinois. They will have minimal direct contact with humans during their time at the zoo so they will not become domesticated, Barnhardt said.
    In the event they are released into the wild, they will then be able to make a smoother transition from life in captivity.
    A trio of river otters named Emme, Molly and Porthos have their own slice of Grizzly Ridge to call home. Their 30,000-gallon tank features an acrylic slide through the water that visitors can slide down for the feeling of swimming with the otters.
    Page 2 of 2 - Those looking for a closer experience with the wild have that chance at the aviary, where 65 birds from 15 species fly around freely, with a net over the top of the area to keep them inside. Blue jays, cardinals and bobwhite quails are among the species living inside the aviary.
    FAMILIAR FAVORITES
    The traditional favorites among the zoo's collection of animals remain popular with visitors. The Humboldt pengiuns remain in their regular spot at Penguin Point, near the main entrance, and Tiger Valley offers African lions, Sumatran tigers and sloth bears.
    In Farmland, animals such as goats and chickens reside and visitors can buy special crackers to feed the goats as the animals approach the fence and show off for anyone walking by. Farmland also has a short train loop where children can go for a ride and learn fun facts about life on the farm.
    The zoo offers free tickets to local communities during its Community Days celebration. Tickets are made available to local governments, which then distribute their allotted tickets to residents as they choose. The $2 parking fee is not included with the free tickets. Community days for Clinton, Coventry, Green, Lakemore, Mogadore, New Franklin and Springfield residents are Sept. 1-5.
    Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
    On Twitter: @aharrisBURB