polar bear birthday

Polar Bear Party Planning: The Making of an Ice Fish and Ice Cake

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This Saturday is a special day at the Alaska Zoo. Each year, we throw an honorary birthday event for the zoo’s polar bears. While it may not be their actual birthdays, many wild polar bears give birth to tiny cubs in their dens right at this time of year. It is a cause for celebration!

And no party is complete without treats and cake. We are lucky to have a new partnership for this year’s event, which will be held Saturday, January 19th at the Alaska Zoo from 11am to 1pm. Copper River Seafoods has joined forces with the zoo to make this the best Polar Bear Birthday event ever!


In looking at pictures from past birthday party events, the staff at Copper River Seafoods noticed the snow cakes and colored ice blocks. Zookeepers, zoo educators and volunteers have always pooled efforts to prepare and unveil these creations at the party events each year. The bears always enjoy climbing on them, tearing them apart and finding the hidden treats inside.

These photos of the bears enjoying their treats inspired Copper River Seafoods staff to get involved in the 2019 party event. We sent zoo photographer John Gomes on assignment to document the artistic process and logistics behind a team at Copper River Seafoods who decided to make two items for this year’s party - an ice fish and an ice cake.


When John arrived at Copper River Seafoods, he was asked to don the proper sanitary gear before going inside - a lab coat, hair net and even a mustache guard. He was escorted inside the processing area to document how staff were constructing these masterpieces.

There are about six people working on the ice blocks which will make up the fish and cake. In total, 48 blocks of ice will be frozen with most to be used making the ice fish. The remaining blocks will be used to build the cake. Tasty fish treats are frozen inside of each block including salmon, halibut, herring, sardines and produce provided by zoo staff. A colorful cake is a must, so layers of colored water are frozen over days. The first layer is frozen, followed by a layer of fish and produce, then another layer of water. This process is repeated until each block is complete.


Of the 48 blocks being frozen, the ice fish will take 35 of the blocks. It will be huge, roughly 14 feet long by 5 feet tall. The cake will be smaller and made up of multiple colors, roughly 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall. And for the cake topper? A halibut tail adorning the top!

Meanwhile, back at the Alaska Zoo, we are in the process of getting Cranbeary and Lyutyik used to each other since Cranbeary’s arrival in late 2018. They are not living together in the same habitat yet, but we are working toward that goal slowly. Cranbeary was recently given access to the main outdoor yard on Tuesday, January 15th and she will alternate time outdoors with Lyutyik until the staff feel a face-to-face introduction is safe. While both bears will hopefully get to check out this event enrichment, it likely won’t be at the same time. It is up to zoo staff and the bears as to how they are doing.

We hope to have a crowd for this fun event, starting at 11am this Saturday, January 19th. The zoo opens at 10am, so we suggest arriving before 10:30am to give yourself time to go to the polar bear exhibit. The fun will commence at 11am!


We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the hard-working staff at Copper River Seafoods. Their inspiration to build these enrichment treats for the bears will truly make this the best Polar Bear Birthday Party ever!

To learn more about Copper River Seafoods, visit their website here.

To explore the natural history of wild polar bears, visit the Polar Bears International website.

To view Polar Bear Birthday Party event information, visit our event page.

Party with Polar Bears at the Polar Bear Birthday Party on January 19th!


We hope you will join us for our annual Polar Bear Birthday Party celebration from 11am to 1pm on Saturday, January 19th.

This year we are very excited to partner with Copper River Seafoods who will be building a wonderful ice cake for Lyutyik and Cranbeary, as well as creating a large fish sculpture to be placed in the habitat. The ‘cake’ will be filled with frozen fish, fruits and veggies - all exciting and delectable treats that polar bears love!

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For our party guests (hopefully you!), we will have coloring in the greenhouse and s’mores at the polar bear habitat for all. We hope you will brave the cold to come out and celebrate this very special occasion with the polar bears!

Each year we celebrate the honorary birthday of our polar bears as this is the time of year when all polar bear cubs are born in the comfort of their dens.

We would also like to invite you make a Polar Bear Birthday resolution. While celebrating this iconic species of the Arctic, take a moment to evaluate your day-to-day activities. How will you do something for polar bear and sea ice conservation this year? How will you help polar bears in the wild? Will you lessen your carbon footprint by turning down the heat a few degrees? Will you make more of an effort to reduce your use of plastics and especially one time use plastics? The polar bears need our help and every action you take, no matter how small, will help give them a better chance in the wild.

Thank you and we hope you will join us on January 19th!