|The lovely Berit, on the right, has an admirer in young Borealis|
It is interesting to observe the friendship between the two polar bears at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison Wisconsin. They are 20 years apart.
Berit is the attractive older lady that young Bo follows around like a puppy dog. You can tell he admires her, and she doesn't discourage his attentions too much. Bo is three years old, and Berit is 23.
For the past six years, Berit has been something of a babysitter or maybe a nanny, bringing up half grown cubs put into her care.
Berit has always had plenty of companionship. She and her twin brother Ulaq were born in 1998 in Denver and moved to the Cincinnati Zoo when they were about a year and a half. Sadly, Ulaq died suddenly at the age of 4. But Berit was not alone, for her friend Rizzo, another female, was there.
|Berit in back, Rizzo in front, in 2011, Cincinnati Zoo.|
Rizzo left Cincinnati for Salt Lake City in 2012, and died five years later. So then it was just Berit and Little One in Cincinnati.
|Little One eats an ice treat for Valentines Day 2015, |
while Berit looks up at the keeper for more,
at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Late in 2016, there was a three way zoo switch all at the same time. Anana left Buffalo to come to Cincinnati, Sakari left Henry Vilas to move to Buffalo, and Berit moved to Henry Vilas, where Sakari's twin sister Suka remained.
Berit on the left, and young Suka on the right,
at Henry Vilas in the summer of 2017.
So now Berit had young Suka as a playmate. Berit and Suka got along famously. But Suka was growing up, and would be ready to have cubs. Suka moved to Detroit in 2018, where she is now mother of one year old Astra and Laerke.
|Young Nuniq in Colubus, just before he moved to Henry Vilas.|
In late 2020, Nuniq moved to Kansas City to be companion to old lady Berlin, and Berit was again on her own, but not for long. Within a month, Suka's little brother two year old Borealis arrived from Toledo. Berit had another another bright eyed half grown cub to bring up. By now she is used to it.
|Bo nuzzles his lady friend Berit.|
|Bo and Berit puzzle over the feeder|
|Berit has found some snacks. Bo pulls on the chain.|
|Berit has again found some lettuce. Bo is still looking.|
|A bit of a tug of war.|
|Bo tries to figure this thing out.|
It is a spacious habitat, and offers a sand pit for digging, right in front of the restaurant windows.
|Bo chases Berit around the sand pit, in front of the restaurant windows.|
|Berit head toward the pit.|
|Bo heads toward Berit.|
|The view from the restaurant window.|
There is plenty of grass in the meadow, and a good sized pool, and Berit has always enjoyed swimming her laps. But she didn't swim on the day I visited.
|It is good enrichment to give the polar bears|
a new environment occasionally.
|Berit heads inside.|
When Berit went inside, Bo would usually follow her, although he sometimes came out again and spent some time on his own.
|With Berit inside, Bo is on his own.|
|Bo by the pool. He cries out to Berit, who is inside.|
At one point he was lounging by the pool, and calling to Berit to come out and join him. She finally did come out, and he got very affectionate with her, even attempting to mount her, but it was past breeding season and he is only three years old, after all. Maybe next year he will be more successful in wooing his older lady.
|Bo attempts to get amorous with Berit. She says "what are you doing?"|
|Is Berit laughing at young Bo's attempts?|
|Let's kiss and make up.|
|Bo and Berit make a cute couple.|
A little about Henry Vilas Zoo
The zoo was born of a family tragedy. Five year old Henry, son of William and Anna Vilas, died of diabetes complications and his parents donated a large tract of land for a park and zoo in their city of Madison, Wisconsin, in memory of their son in 1904, with the stipulation that the facility must remain free. Whenever I go to this zoo, I think of little Henry, and am grateful for his legacy.
The first bear exhibit was built in 1913. In 1988, two orphaned polar bear cubs, Nanuq and Norton, are were brought to the zoo. Nanuq grew up to become the father of Luna, Nora, Nuniq (who later came to live at Henry Vilas for a time), Neva and Amelia Gray. Norton became the father of Triton, who was the father of Talini.
The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of ten remaining free zoos in North America.