Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Three Bears of the Como Zoo

Kulu in front, Nan in the center, and Neil in the back,
having a lettuce snack.

Just like in the story of Goldilocks, there's a family of three bears living at the Como Zoo in St. Paul Minnesota. In this family, however, there are a Grandpa bear and a Grandma bear, living with a two year old cub, and they are all just right.


Neil on the left, munching on lettuce. Nan is on the right.

26 year old Neil lost his twin brother and lifelong companion Buzz in August of 2020. 27 year old Nan arrived from the Brookfield Zoo the following February, so this pair has been together for over a year. Wildborn Nan lived for many years in the Toledo Zoo and is the mother of Nikita, who lives in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City now, so she is familiar with the needs of a cub. 

Old lady Nan, on the left, watches as young Kulu passes by.
 She is a good babysitter.

Young Kulu arrived at the Como Zoo last October, just before his second birthday. He was born in the Columbus Zoo, the son of Aurora and Lee, on November 28, 2019.

Neil on the left engages in some friend horseplay with young Kulu.

The older bears at Como enjoy playing with this cub. Kulu is as big as they are but still thinks he's a baby. Neil especially likes to play fight with Kulu in the water.

Nan watches over Kulu playing in the water.

Nan is always keeping a watchful eye. 

Neil has experience playing with an older cub, from the time he and Buzz spent in the Detroit Zoo while Como Zoo was updating the polar bear enclosure. In Detroit, Neil and Buzz were playmates of young Talini, and they had a great time.

The Como Zoo has two wonderful outdoor areas for the bears, with an interior section as a pass through between areas and as access to the bedrooms. The visitor building is a nice cozy place to view the bears in the central area, as well as the two outside habitats.

I was lucky enough to visit Como for three days in early April, and it was cold and rainy, so the bear visitor building was the best place to be. Spring comes late to Minnesota. Only the right hand area was available to the bears during my visit. 

In the center training area, Kulu is standing up on the left,
Nan is center, Neil is on the right.

From left, Kulu, Nan and Neil, in the training area.

There were some fun interactions between the three bears in the central area. During past visits, this is where the keeper talks are given, along with training demonstrations. But not now, probably because of Covid.

Kulu had fun with the giant pickle.

Como Zoo is still requiring online reservations to limit the number of visitors. 

Kulu plays with a visitor.

We could observe Kulu swimming in the deep pool, and he had a good time with the many toys provided, as well as tussling with Neil. 

Neil (in front) and Kulu splash it up.

The two older bears, the "grandpa and grandma," get along well. Neil has adjusted to the loss of Buzz, and I am sure that having Nan and Kulu there is a big help, for Neil has always had a companion.

Nan is happy with her lettuce snack.

26 year old Neil (along with wildborn Blizzard of the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma Washington, whose birthday is uncertain) is the oldest male polar bear in the U.S.

Neil is looking rugged these days.

Nan and Neil in the training area.

At  27, Nan is up there in age too, and is the second oldest polar bear in the U.S., behind Berlin (32 years old) of the Kansas City Zoo.  Berlin, by the way, lived at Como Zoo with Neil and Buzz for a time after her enclosure in the Duluth Zoo was destroyed in a flash flood back in 2012. Neil is uncle to Berlin, even though he is younger.

Neil thinks about having some more lettuce.

Kulu has lots of toys.

Kulu is a very big cub. He was always big for his age.

So while the older bears like to play with Kulu, they do get tired and need to rest, so then Kulu is on his own. He is fine with playing by himself. 

I visited Kulu many times as he was growing up in the Columbus Zoo. I am happy to see how well he has settled into a comfortable routine at the Como Zoo.

The glass is wet from the rain, as Neil and Kulu battle it out.

Kulu seems very happy in St. Paul with his  adoptive "grandparents." 

Kulu with a sunken "iceberg"


Kulu the champion swimmer

For visitors who would like a taste of spring, a visit to the Sunken Garden at to Como Zoo is a delight as well. 

Como Zoo is a free zoo, and also offers many botanical delights such as a rainforest room, a fern room, and the Sunken Garden.