ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The Mill Mountain Zoo welcomed introduced a big and furry new addition to the Roanoke Valley on Tuesday, who will live in the zoo’s first capital project in 30 years.
According to the zoo, “Hyde” the black bear arrived at Mill Mountain Zoo and Wildlife Conservancy on Feb. 28 from her previous home at the Wright Park Zoo in Dodge City, Kansas, where she had lived since she was three months old.
Hyde is a 10-year old female black bear who weighs 350 pounds and was born in captivity.
After spending the required 30 days in quarantine — per zoo policy — Hyde is ready to be introduced to the region!
The zoo says Hyde’s arrival was not publicized prior to the ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, April 13 to allow time for bonding with her keepers and to allow her to quietly adjust to her new surroundings.
The black bear enclosure is the first capital project undertaken by the Mill Mountain Zoo in three decades, preceded by the enclosure built for “Ruby” the tiger. According to the zoo, the enclosure was painstakingly designed and crafted to resemble the native wildlife habitat.
The previous occupant of the enclosure was Nina, the zoo’s beloved cougar who passed away in September of 2019. After Nina’s death, zoo officials decided that the enclosure would be modified to accommodate Hyde.
Between then and now, native fruiting plants like elderberry and blueberry were planted to allow the black bear to do some natural foraging while on exhibit.
Some trees were left unprotected so that Hyde could climb or use them for scratching, if she chooses.
Overall exhibit security was enhanced by installing devices that would prevent her from digging out of the enclosure, climbing the fence and climbing certain trees.
The viewing platform was also expanded to improve the experience of visitors.
Information graphics have been developed with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to ensure that the zoo encourages co-existence with these native beauties.
The president of the Board of Directors, Niki Voudren, said, “Mill Mountain Zoo is indebted to the generosity of dear friends and stakeholders for making this exhibit a reality.”
Other key partners for construction and delivery of Hyde to the zoo reportedly include R.L. Price Construction and the City of Roanoke.