The Great Bend Tribune’s annual Zoo Pride special section was included in the Sunday, April 22, paper. Copies as available at the Tribune, 2012 Forest Ave.
When the grizzly bear population at Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo grew from one to four, it was time to expand the exhibit area. Fortunately, the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation was willing to help. In 2016, Foundation Director Katherine Opie told Great Bend City Council members about two gifts totaling $230,000 that would be used to upgrade the grizzly bear exhibit and to reintroduce bison to the zoo. Additional funds would come from the city.
In 2017, city officials met with architects and engineers and learned the cost for the completion of the grizzly bear expansion was projected to be $877,290 — higher than the $700,000 set aside for the project. Opie indicated the Morrison Foundation would provide the necessary funds.
With the added cost of the first project, which will triple the size of the bear exhibit, Director of Public Lands Scott Keeler said the bison exhibit will come later.
Zoo officials said they expect the project to be completed in May and a grand opening has been set for Saturday, June 2, 2018, as part of Great Bend’s June Jaunt. It will run all day, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but the first 150 kids will receive a free stuffed animal. Members of the Great Bend Zoological Society will be able to attend an exclusive early viewing from 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, June 1.
Curator and Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin said the changes will give the bears more room to play. It will add 260 feet of fence, a shelter house and a pond with running water. The bears will also get shade structures and a climbing wall.
About the bears
Max, Winnie, Pooh and Piglet are Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo’s Grizzly Bears. Max, the oldest and largest of the four, was brought to the zoo as an adult in 1981 from Yellowstone National Park. Max was labeled a nuisance bear after he was repeatedly caught killing cattle outside the park’s boundary. Winnie, Pooh, and Piglet are 5-year-old siblings.
They are highly destructive, rambunctious youngsters with sweet dispositions, Hamlin said. Piglet, the smallest and the only female, is generally the first to learn new behaviors during behavior enrichment training.