Monday, December 31, 2018

Auntie Hope and her niece Nora

Hope is up, Nora is down, headed to the pool.

As we bid adieu to 2018, my last little story of the year is the tale of my visit to two little cubs I knew separately when they were small, but are now living together, growing up as playmates.

Hope and Nora at play in Salt Lake City

I visited polar bear cubs Hope and Nora in Salt Lake City in October to check up on these girls that I had known as young cubs and were now almost three years old. I am so glad these girls are together. Neither one had another cub to play with when she was younger. Now they have been together for over a year, and the keepers say they have become good friends.

Hope in Toledo at about a year old

Hope and her mother Crystal
Hope was born in Toledo to Crystal and Marty on December 3, 2015 in Toledo Ohio.

Nora in Columbus
Nora was born to Crystal and Marty's daughter Aurora about a month previous in nearby Columbus Ohio. 

Nora at the Columbus Zoo, during her hour long outings each day.

Nora in Columbus, trying to catch a fish. She sometimes succeeded
 Nora's father was wildborn Nanuq, who has since died, but not before he fathered three more cubs in Columbus. The name Nora is a combination of parents' names, Aur0ra and Nanuq.

Hope in Toledo
These two cubs, Hope and Nora, were the only cubs born in the U.S. zoos in 2015. There were three cubs born in 2016, to Aurora and her sister Anana, with Nanuq as the father, in Columbus, but there have been no surviving cubs in 2017 or 2018 born in US zoos. 

Nora in Columbus
While Hope was raised in Toledo by her mother, just a few hours away in Columbus Ohio, Aurora took care of Nora for the first few days, but then spent longer and longer periods away from the newborn, so the keepers took over and raised Nora by hand, sharing many photos and videos of the wee one as she was growing up behind the scenes. Nora became an internet phenomenon.

Baby Nora
Back in the Spring of 2016, when Nora was introduced to the public at the Columbus Zoo, she was only on view in the big enclosure for an hour every morning, starting at 9:30 a.m. There were long lines of Nora fans every morning, waiting for the chance to see her run and jump and swim and chase the fish for that precious hour, with docents on hand to hurry people along to make room for others.  Then at 10:30 a.m., Nora went behind the scenes for the rest of the day and the big bears came out. Her fans could shop for special Nora t-shirts and other merchandise, but Nora was hidden for the rest of the day. Nora was a big hit with the public, but hard to see because of the short timeframe.

Nora after her debut in Columbus
The public wasn't told, and this may explain why her mother wasn't taking proper care of her, but when Nora was about seven weeks old, she was diagnosed with metabolic bone disease cause by an imbalance of calcium, Vitamin D and other nutrients. The young cub received supplements right away, and seemed to be doing well, but she does have joint disorders which make her have a different gait, and maybe a limp or waddle. It may cause arthritis in later life. She will continue to get special care because of this.

The late Nanuq, in the center, with twin sisters Aurora and Anana
Because Nora was only in public view for an hour every day, that meant her mother Aurora and Aunt Anana could spend the rest of the day in the big enclosure with big handsome old guy Nanuq. More cubs could be expected in the 'Winter of 2016-2017, so Nora was sent to the Portland Zoo to live with old lady bear Tasul. Sadly, Tasul died a few months after Nora arrived, so once again, she was alone with her toys. Fortunately, Nora was always very good at entertaining herself.

Nora in Columbus
Nora lived in Portland about a year, and was doing well, but to provide her with company, she was moved to Utah's Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City in September of 2017.  About the same time, two year old Hope moved from Toledo to join her niece in Salt Lake City. The two cubs hit it off very well, and each has enjoyed having a playmate of the same age.

Nora in her favorite spot in the Hogle Zoo pool

Because the pool in Hogle Zoo is filled with salt water, and the cubs splash a lot, the windows by the pool are always dreadfully spotty, making it hard to get good clear photos. And almost all of the windows are over water.

Hope chasing a bird at the Hogle Zoo

When the girls arrived in Salt Lake City, Hope was 100 pounds heavier than Nora. Now, a year later, their weights have evened out. In November, the time of Nora's party, Hope weighed in at 593 pounds, and Nora was up to 571 pounds.

Hope charges after Nora, wanting to play

How do you tell the girls apart? They are about the same size now, but they have differently shaped bodies. Nora is rounder, and Hope is more streamlined. Nora has a square snout, and Hope has a longer pointed snout.

Hope has the pointy nose

Keepers say that Nora is more people oriented, which is only natural because she was raised by her keepers, and looks to humans. 


The best way to tell them apart is by their activities and where they choose to spend their time.


Nora is very interested in the fish given to her neighbors, the seals and sea lions. Maybe she got a taste for the live fish in her pool in Columbus. Maybe her joints feel better when she is floating in the water.

Nora watching the seals and sea lions
Nora on the hunt
There is also a window in the divider between the bears and the seals, above the water level, and Nora will sometimes jump up and put her paws on the ledge so she can peek over for a second into the Sea Lions' home.

Nora pulls herself up to get a better view

Hope has rolled in the mulch and gotten dirty,
 walking along the top of the wall. Nora is in the water.
Sometimes Nora gets out of the water to go up and play with Hope. Soon, however, she is back in the water, stalking the seals.
Hope on the wall, Nora on the ground
Hope, on the other hand, is a land lover. She traverses along the top ridge of the enclosure, back and forth, then jumps into the water to play for a minute or two with Nora, then back out again, often rolling in the mulch to become a brown bear. When she is in the water, she tries to go through the underwater tunnels.
Hope and Nora together in the water, for a minute or two. It doesn't last long.

 The zoo put on a birthday party for Nora with the theme Rainbows and Unicorns on November 6. It is on the zoo's facebook page so you can watch the girls party. The link is posted below. Of course Hope got some treats too. Then in December, there was another party for Hope as she turned three years old.


Nora is a water baby, which is great because water therapy helps with her bone and joint development. She spends a lot of her time floating in a particular spot, where she can keep her eye on the underwater window between the polar bear pool and the Sea Lions and Seals. Occasionally she will attack. 

Nora licks a rock
The Hogle Zoo threw a little birthday bash for Nora with special treats. Here are a few photos I took from my computer. To see the entire party, click on this link for the video of Nora's birthday party:

Nora's birthday party video on the Hogle Zoo's facebook page

A photo of Nora's party, taken from the computer.

The bears were treated to ice treats, topped with salmon oil, for Nora's party.

Nora and Hope at the birthday party

Nora enjoys a treat at the party, photo taken from video broadcast on facebook.


  1. Dear Molly

    Hope has grown up to a lovely young polar lady.
    Nora also looks very pretty. Thank you for the
    beautiful shots of the bears and the review of
    their life as kids.


    P.S. I wish you a peaceful year 2019 !

  2. I love Polar Bear girls so much. Hope and Nora looks a great pair. Thank you for always giving us such great background briefing.