Friday, September 14, 2018

Polar Bears in the Rain

Neva, Nuniq and mother Aurora in the rain,
 one week before the departure of Nuniq
Children grow up, and must strike out on their own. This is true for polar bear families too. Just short of their second birthday, the three Columbus zoo polar bear cubs are leaving their moms, and heading out to new homes. We were told that that the cubs would be leaving "in the fall," but no date was given.

Neva looks for fish, and Nuniq floats
I drove up to Columbus to visit Aurora and her twins on Thursday, September 6, with the remains of Hurricane Gordon bringing in bands of rain. The two bear families are rotated, so each day visitors only see one family. At first we thought it was Anana and her daughter, because we spotted a large bear and a smaller cub. As it turns out, there was a third bear. The first two bears we saw were Nuniq, as big as his mother, and Neva. The third bear was Mother Aurora.

Mother Aurora sits in the rock, while Neva and Nunuq play in the rain.

Neva on the left, Nuniq in the middle, Mother Aurora on the right

 Now just a week later, Nuniq has already left for his new home in the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison Wisconsin, where he will join older lady bear Berit, who moved there a few years ago from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Cubs at play

Nuniq is too young for breeding just yet. Berit is only distantly related. Her great grandfather is Clark, who is great great grandfather to Nuniq.

Neva (I think) looking for fish

Aurora, left, with Neva and Nuniq

Underwater wave
Nuniq's sister Neva and cousin Amelia Gray will be leaving the Columbus Zoo shortly for the Maryland Zoo. Current resident of the Maryland Zoo, Anoki, will be moving to the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY, next Tuesday. This is the zoo where Anoki was born 23 years ago, and where her mother Aurora recently died. It currently has no polar bears.

Neva goes fishing.
 Columbus is the rare zoo with live fish as enrichment for the polar bears.

Visiting polar bears during a very rainy day is usually not much fun, but we rode the shuttle from the entry right to the polar bears. The Columbus Zoo polar bear enclosure provides a roof for the viewing area, with an indoor stairway down to the underwater viewing, so it was actually a great day to visit.

The twins above the underwater viewing window
 The rain action stirs up the live trout that swim in the pool, so Neva spent much time in hunting, putting her eyes and nose into the water to wait for an unsuspecting fish to come close. The fish were too clever for her that day, but she has caught fish in the past. Nuniq doesn't fish, but waits for his mother or sister to catch one, and then he steals it.

Aurora gets some petting from Debbie

The rain didn't bother the bears at all. In fact they were very active and playful, and Neva was very much on the prowl for fishies. At one point, she was on the rocks, watching for fish, and a big clap of thunder spooked her. She ran away, but soon came back.

A good crowd took advantage of the shelter in the viewing area

Nuniq likes to cling to the window, and jump up and down.
 Here he surprises Neva behind him.

Neva and Nuniq

Neva plays submarine, looking for fish

Still looking for unwary fish. The rain makes the fish more active.

Neva's favorite past time. Fishing.

Neva gives a kiss to her brother

Neva and Nuniq. They are both shaggier than their mother,
rather like their late father, Nanuq.

It was a treat to see the bears in action during a heavy rain.
Here we have Nuniq and Neva.

Neva and Nuniq
Neva drips water, in between spying on the trout.

Neva soaking wet
Nuniq surrounded by raindrops

Neva fishing, Nuniq just playing

Aurora on the rock, Nuniq at the window. Neva in between

Nuniq has special glowing brown eyes. He really does. 

Cubs playing above the underwater viewing.
The visitors stayed nice and dry as a storm raged outside.

All three bears, mom and cubs, underwater view

The bears are much more active in the rain.

The family, all together, before the cubs' departure

Nuniq, Neva, Aurora

A family portrait. Aurora is in front, Neva back left, Nuniq is back right.
  Amelia Gray and Neva will be leaving Columbus soon. The zoo is not saying when, but it could be any time, since Anoki will be moved next week. These girls have the same father, the late Nanuq, and their mothers are twins, so the are very closely related, but have never played together, since the families are out on alternating days. Of course they have seen and smelled and heard their cousin, and will get along great in Maryland, I am sure.

The rain was very intense. 

The sister moms, Aurora and Anana, can finally be reunited after being separated for two years, while they raised their cubs. There is talk of bringing in a male, but with so few polar bears, and even fewer unrelated to them, it remains to be seen. 

Nuniq cleans the window


  1. Dear Molly,

    Once again you 'delivered' a very informative and entertaining report - this time from the Columbus Zoo. The photos are fantastic!

    I wish all the young bears a happy life in their new homes.

    Hugs from Mervi

  2. Once upon a time there were three little Polar Bears who all went to the.... I feel a TV series coming on.
    As ever your photos and story are awesome.