The zoo’s active role in the conservation of Canadian species is showcased in the revitalized 21-acre Canadian Wilds. Accomplished in several phases, the expansive and flexible habitats set a new standard with increased choices for the animals and more engaging experiences for guests. Centered on iconic bear and carnivore species such as wolves and cougars, In the Company of Bears helps guests appreciate the important role of bears as the umbrella species for mountain ecosystems. Other native species such as river otters, mountain goats, Dall’s sheep, prairie dogs and more complete this truly Canadian experience.
These significant and exciting changes ultimately create three interchangeable habitat areas where different bear species have the opportunity to move from one area to another. This approach to creating flexible and dynamic habitat provides the opportunity for increased daily enrichment and exploration within the limited geographic footprint available. A highlight of this zone is the addition of animal overpasses (much like those seen in national parks) to allow animals to move from one habitat to another.
Interpretation will showcase the zoo’s contributions to native wildlife conservation and its strong link with Parks Canada. Guests can choose from a memorable short (~.5 km) trek , a longer (~1 km) hike, or even a stagecoach ride through the wilds of the Canadian west punctuated by close encounters with bears, wolves, cougars and many other iconic Canadian species.
Cascading Mountain Stream
The majestic and at-risk grizzly bear is showcased in habitat that mirrors their favoured areas in the wild. Within a cascading mountain stream, the bears are seen enjoying a dip and fishing for trout. The cougar exhibit is strategically located on the ridge adjacent to this bear habitat, giving the illusion of connectivity, but allowing both species to rest at ease, comfortably away from each other. Fronting the cascading mountain stream, a North American small mammal exhibit gives the illusion of both animals sharing the same land area and bodies of water.
An expansive black bear and timber wolf habitat replicates a timbered woodland providing both species with ample space to coexist and environmental conditions that are functionally natural to satisfy their need for foraging, denning, climbing and observation. Two new exhibits – prairie dogs and porcupines – greet guests as they make their way to Cequel Energy Lodge where an expanded river otter habitat provides multiple opportunities to watch the otters at play in their stream and in tumbling waterfalls.
The final and crowning stage of In the Company of Bears is the Northern Shoreline area showcasing majestic polar bears in a complex environment, including a water feature with both deep and shallow water as well as floating ice. Equally important, their habitat includes land area that allows for extensive foraging, digging and lounging – all components that truly satisfy this species’ behavioural needs. However, this habitat represents only a portion of the area that is ultimately available to these bears as they share in the flexible exhibit space developed for the other bear species so all can be rotated into one of three complex environments expanding opportunities for a fulfilling and enriching life for each.
Guests have multiple viewpoints, both above and below water, to observe these icons of Canada’s most northern regions while learning about the changing nature of Canada’s Arctic and ongoing conservation research and outreach activities. Guests gain an understanding of the nature of these bears and learn how they are adapting to their changing circumstances.
An Arctic fox habitat acts as a foreground exhibit along one of the viewpoints, showcasing another fascinating northern species and the Owl Aviary is expanded and enhanced to promote free-flying behaviour.
FEATURED SPECIES:• Grizzly bear• Black bear• Polar bear• River otter• Cougar• Whooping crane• Prairie dog• Porcupine• Moose• Caribou• Timber wolf• Bison• Elk• Rocky Mountain goat• Rocky Mountain sheep• Dall’s sheep Other Canadian Species
The river lowlands and the existing muskox paddock are redeveloped for moose, caribou and other ungulates (hoofed mammals) of Canada’s north. Management features include a new barn and gates that allow movement to higher elevations when Bow River water levels pose a risk.
Cequel Energy Lodge is renovated and a rustic new River Lodge is built at the junction of the two loop paths. Complete with a wood-burning fireplace, food venue, washrooms and terrace overlooking the Bow River, the River Lodge provides a welcome respite in the winter and a place to rest in the summer. The adjacent meadows provide ample space for picnicking while enjoying views of nearby animal exhibits. A guided stagecoach ride is planned to offer guests an engaging adventure from a unique perspective as they visit this expansive area of the zoo. The new barn and Cequel Energy Lodge are themed to replicate one of Alberta’s early stagecoach stops.
Food venues, additional washrooms, three new presentation places, two multi-purpose rooms, as well as areas to rest, relax and understand Alberta’s animals are important elements in providing a comfortable visit and make In the Company of Bears a favourite place to visit.