The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo, 2123 Main, is staying open longer this summer, and offering daily Keeper Chats, where the public can learn more about the animals. The zoo is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but staying open until 7 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As always, admission is free.
Keeper Chats are also free, and are offered at various times. Check at the Raptor Center when entering the zoo. Upcoming chats this week were scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
We attended an 11 a.m. Keeper Chat on Wednesday, next to the Grizzly Bear exhibit with Zookeeper Stacie Hayes. Winnie was enjoying the pool, until Max decided he was ready for a swim.
Three bears — males Winnie and Pooh, and their sister Piglet — were born in January of 2013 and came to the zoo when they were about 1 year old. They get along well with Max, an older bear who enjoys the camaraderie but expects to be treated with respect.
Late morning is a great time to watch the animals, Hayes said. It was still fairly cool and they were busy with their morning routines. For the bears, that includes finding the food zookeepers have set out, including puzzles with hidden treats.
“They all have their favorites,” Hayes said. Before his swim, Max was busy rolling a barrel up a hill, knowing treats would spill out and he could follow a path of food back to the source. Piglet is partial to corn, and if there are oranges in the mix, Pooh will search for them. He peals them before eating them.
Bears are omnivores and will eat all kids of food, including bugs. Sometimes, the staff will catch a catfish from the zoo pond and add it to the bears’ pool. (Hayes said the bald eagle also got a fish Tuesday and seemed to enjoy it.)
A lot of general information about animals can be learned from signs at the zoo, but people often want to know specific information about the animals.
“That’s what you get at the Keeper Chats,” Hayes said. “You get to know the animals more personally.”
For the record: Pooh is the goofiest, Piglet is the smartest, Max is the grumpiest and Winnie is the laziest grizzly bear at the zoo.