Kodiak bears are headed to Marshfield to fill the new exhibit
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — It will not be grizzly bears but rather Kodiak bears that will inhabit the new Adler Family Kodiak Bear Exhibit at Wildwood Park and Zoo when the project is completed at the end of October this year.
The bears are currently being cared for at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage until the new habitat at Wildwood is ready for them. Wildwood’s future residents were two of three Kodiak bears that were rescued on Alaska’s Kodiak Island. They were discovered by members of a hunting party after they heard reports that the cubs’ mother had been illegally shot, according to a news release from the Marshfield Parks and Recreation Department.
The release stated that, “Wildwood Zoo officials had been working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for several months to receive preapproval to adopt two bears in the event that just this type of situation should arise.”
The news of the Kodiak bears was announced both via press release and also at the groundbreaking of the new bear exhibit, which occurred Wednesday, May 27.
Once the bears reach Marshfield, they will have a state-of-the-art facility to call home that includes a 4,600-square foot, glass-enclosed area and a nearly one-acre “Bear Woods” with a 65-foot bridge spanning the two habitats.
The release said, “The privilege of having Kodiak bears at Wildwood Zoo is an extremely rare opportunity. They are rarely removed from the Kodiak landscape. Wildwood Park and Zoo will be one of only a few zoos or sanctuaries in North America to house true Kodiak bears.”
The release specified that Kodiak bears are a subspecies of brown bears and are the same species as grizzly bears with some notable differences.
“Kodiak bears are the biggest subspecies of brown bears and are one of the two biggest bear species in the world, the other being polar bears. Wild Kodiak bears can grow to be 1,400 pounds and stand 10 feet tall, while captive Kodiaks have grown to be much larger.”
Mayor Chris Meyer said that the bear exhibit project was an example of the power of community partnerships. Funding for the project came mostly from private donations but also includes contributions from the city.
“This is how we have to do things in government at all levels. There needs to be partnership between private individuals and businesses and the community in order to see projects of this magnitude come to fruition,” Meyer said. “It’s eye opening every time we do an event like this to really realize how many people go into making something like this happen, not just the dollars that they bring but the time and the passion they bring.”
Matt McLean, director of the Marshfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, which donated $75,000 to the project, said that once completed the exhibit could be a tourist attraction with national appeal.
“It’s going to be a really interesting and unique tourist attraction,” McLean said, adding that the bridge spanning the glass enclosure and the “Bear Woods” would be one of just a few like it in the country. “This could be a national push. There’s going to be bear lovers that are going to want to come here to see Kodiak bears.”
Construction for the project is expected to being on June 8, and the work will be done by Altmann Construction Company Inc. of Wisconsin Rapids.