Archive: Grizzly Bear Brothers Explore Expanded Detroit Zoo Habitat

Makeover debuts in time for Sunset at the Zoo on June 8

June 5, 2018

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has transformed three bear habitats into one expansive environment, more than doubling the space shared by rescued grizzly bear brothers Mike, Thor and Boo.  The makeover involved eliminating the walls separating the grizzlies’ center habitat from the adjacent spaces, formerly occupied by a Syrian brown bear and a North American black bear – also rescues – who moved last fall to a Colorado wildlife sanctuary.

The renovated 20,000-square-foot habitat provides a more naturalistic experience for the bears, including a cave and a variety of nooks that provide more options for them to choose where to spend their time.  Much of the concrete has been removed and replaced with grass and soft surfaces, and plenty of logs and branches have been added for the bears to play with and climb on.  A climbing wall remains, along with a large pool that is 6 feet deep.

“The bears’ view of the world is really going to change now that their habitat has been opened up,” said Scott Carter, DZS chief life sciences officer.  “Their space is significantly larger and their ability to sense what’s happening around them is dramatically expanded.  Bears rely on their keen sense of smell to tell them what’s going on in the world around them, and the expanded habitat opens up what they can see and what they can smell.”

The original 8,400-square-foot center bear den was one of the first animal habitats to debut when the Detroit Zoo opened in 1928.  It was groundbreaking at the time as it featured a moat instead of bars, giving visitors an unobstructed view of the animals.  The Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in America to incorporate cage-less animal habitats.

The 7-year-old grizzly bear brothers found sanctuary at the Detroit Zoo in 2011 when they were rescued as cubs after their mother was killed by a poacher in Alaska.  Rescued female grizzly bear, Kintla, 34, will continue to reside in the bear den on the opposite side of the renovated habitat; she has lived at the Zoo since 1986.

Detroit Zoo guests will have a chance to check out the grizzly bears’ newly expanded habitat at Sunset at the Zoo “Safari” on Friday, June 8.  The annual fundraiser features a strolling supper, music, dancing, auctions and access to many of the Zoo’s award-winning animal habitats at twilight.  To purchase tickets, visit