Cranbeary the polar bear coming to the Alaska Zoo

New polar bear arrives at the Alaska Zoo to support wildlife conservation and delight zoo visitors

Image of Cranbeary courtesy of Denver Zoo.

Image of Cranbeary courtesy of Denver Zoo.

If you found your way to this blog post, you have heard the exciting news about the arrival of Cranbeary. The staff, volunteers and Board of Directors at the Alaska Zoo are thrilled to welcome this beautiful polar bear as a resident in the only zoo located in the Last Frontier! We know there are lots of questions about her impending arrival, so have put together this Q&A format to provide some basic insight into Cranbeary’s habits, personality, arrival and transition to her new Alaskan life.

Q. Who is Cranbeary?

A. Cranbeary is a 16-year-old female polar bear, and she comes to Alaska from the Denver Zoo. For a polar bear born on Thanksgiving Day, could there be a better name than “Cranbeary?” We surely don’t think so!

Q. What do we know about Cranbeary’s personality?

A.  She is very playful and curious. She especially prefers playing with small balls that she can carry around with her. Cranbeary also likes to play with barrels and trashcans, which keep her occupied for hours on end. She is an inquisitive bear, always investigating new noises and observing the zoo visitors while they enjoy watching her!

Q. Is it unusual for a grown polar bear to be transported from one zoo to another?

A.  It isn’t uncommon for animals to transfer from one zoo to another for a variety of reasons, including habitat rehabilitation, participation in breeding programs or due to a better overall fit for the animal. In fact, Cranbeary is pretty well traveled. She was born in Denver but sent some time at the zoo in Memphis and will now be traveling north to her new home at the Alaska Zoo.

Q. How many other polar bears are there at zoos?

A. There are only 44 polar bears in captivity today in North America. Polar bears are a threatened species, and Cranbeary and longtime Alaska Zoo polar bear resident Lyutyik are supporting important education and potentially breeding to benefit their entire species.

Q. Moving a 706-pound polar bear from Colorado to Alaska must be a difficult task! How will Cranbeary be transported from the Denver Zoo to the Alaska Zoo?

A.  Cranbeary will travel via Fed-Ex airplane. She will be in a large crate, and two Alaska Zoo employees will be with her the entire time. They will keep a close eye on her, monitor her stress levels and ensure she is well cared for.

Image courtesy of Denver Zoo.

Image courtesy of Denver Zoo.

Q. Polar bears are an Arctic species, so Alaska seems like a fitting home for Cranbeary. Will it be a challenging adjustment for her to move from Denver to Anchorage?

A. There should not be much of an adjustment for her beyond what would be expected. She will certainly be getting more fresh salmon in her diet after arriving at the Alaska Zoo!

Q. Where will Cranbeary be while in quarantine, and how will the zoo be caring for Cranbeary during her quarantine period?

A. During her quarantine, she will be in the Alaska Zoo’s newly completed maternity den. It is a safe and quiet place out of the public eye for her to get used to the new smells and sounds of her new home. She will be able to smell Lyutyik, the Alaska Zoo’s resident male polar bear, and even see him on occasion. Both Cranbeary’s food intake and feces will be monitored closely. She will have access to a separate outdoor area which is behind-the-scenes to ensure a peaceful transition.

Q.  How does a polar bear react when meeting new mates? Is possible aggression a concern?

A.  In the wild, female and male polar bears would start seeking each other out from late February into March and April. Since this is the natural time for polar bears in Alaska to seek each other out, we will allow Lyutyik (also known as “Lyu”) and Cranbeary to visit each other regularly this winter with a fence separating them. When the Alaska Zoo staff observes steady behavior that indicates a desire to be together, we will then allow Cranbeary into the main polar bear habitat while Lyu is locked safely in his den. This will give Cranbeary a chance to explore and leave her scent behind. Then Lyu will have a chance to re-explore her scent in the habitat. This will be done a few times; and, if it does not produce stressful behavior in the polar bears, they will be introduced face to face. The introduction will begin with 24-hour, in-person supervision. The length of this supervision depends on the polar bears’ behavior and if they give zoo staff any cause for concern.

Q.  Aside from cohabitation, does the zoo do anything to encourage breeding between polar bears?

A.  Nope. Nature provides all of the drive needed.

Q.  What does Cranbeary like to eat?

A.  She’s one of those girls who would get caught just ordering a salad. Cranbeary’s favorite food is romaine lettuce, and she eats four heads of lettuce every day! Her keepers at the Denver Zoo have even used it for enrichment and training. In addition to her craving for lettuce, she receives all of the other protein and nutrients necessary for a well-rounded polar bear diet.

Q.  When might the public have a chance to meet Cranbeary?

A.  It will be up to the bears to determine when visitors get to meet Cranbeary. If the polar bears show signs of wanting to be together early on, then Cranbeary may be housed in the main habitat and ready for visitors in as little as three months. As we do with all the animals we care for, we will let Cranbeary and Lyutyik dictate the timeline with their behavior.

Learn more about polar bears on our Animal Information Pages.

Explore the facts behind the plight of polar bears in the wild and their sea ice habitat by visiting the Polar Bears International website.

For information on the scientific polar bear research happening in Alaska, visit the USGS Alaska Science Center page.