Saint Louis Zoo to open Grizzly Ridge habitat

ST. LOUIS – Visitors to the Saint Louis Zoo will soon be able to see the new grizzly bear outdoor habitat. Fox 2/KPLR 11 got a sneak peek of the Centene Grizzly Ridge habitat a month before the its newest residents arrive next month.

The zoo included native plants and berries, as well as a gummite tree trunk that keepers will put enrichment food items inside to keep the grizzlies occupied in the Gateway City.

Steve Bircher, St. Louis Zoo curator of Mammals & Carnivores, explained the specifics behind the new exhibit.

“This used to be the divider between the two old grottos,” said Bircher. “But now we’ve opened this up. This section has two access points, the keeper door on the left side and the right side is the bear shift door. And that’s the way the bears will go in and out of their bedrooms, which are on the back side of this wall.”

After all, a private bear bedroom is one of the ‘bear’ necessities to life, and one of the features of the new habitat.

The $11.1 million project is located on the site of the zoo’s original bear grottos built in the 1920s, then considered state-of-the-art for replacing barred cages. The new design retains three-fifths of the original rockwork.

“The rocks were from casts which were taken off the cliffs from Herculaneum and then recreated here,” said Jeffrey P. Bonner, PhD, Dana Brown President & CEO St. Louis Zoo. “If you come and look at the exhibit you’ll see that it’s a seamless integration.”

Five 360-degree cameras give curators the ability to monitor the animals and visitors at the exhibit. There’s a waterfall into an 18-inch shallow basin that leads to a stream and finally a four-foot pool right up against the glass.

“There’s actually 22 windows and these windows there is a four-layer laminated glass that is about two inches thick,” Bircher said.

Bonner said this new habitat is twice the size of the old exhibit.

“It’s got the waterfall. the pools and, you’re going to get nose to glass with some pretty amazing animals,” he said.