Polar bear habitat

Learn how voter-funded improvements will enrich the habitat and living experience for the zoo's polar bears.

Polar bears live on wide open tundra and ice floes on the Arctic Ocean. They love to patrol their territory and take in views across expanses of water and ice. Polar bears need complex space for exploration. The new polar bear exhibit will give the Oregon Zoo's bears a larger, more open exhibit that they can patrol as they do in the wild and guests can patrol with them. The new long, two-tiered habitat will include natural ground materials, tundra plants, elevated areas for long views, shallow and deep pools, and many viewing opportunities for visitors.

The new design features:

  • A more efficient pool filtration system that will save water and energy.
  • Long views created for bears by increasing their elevation and eliminating visual barriers.
  • Visitor views into bear training areas.
  • Advanced lighting and ventilation for treatment and off-exhibit areas.
  • Square footage, water quality and housing conditions that will exceed zoo industry standards.
  • Unique views of the polar bear exhibit from the new zoo train loop.
  • Elimination of concrete that absorbs and maintains heat in the summer.

All the new exhibits at the zoo will provide larger, more natural areas to accommodate family groups and future breeding. The polar bear exhibit will include private denning spaces for mother bears and cubs. In addition, the new habitat will provide stimulating surroundings and many options so the bears can make choices about their daily activities.

Polar bears are a central conservation concern for the zoo community. The effects of climate change on the natural habitat of polar bears increases the urgency of expanded education about their plight. The zoo's polar bear experts and education design consultants are exploring engaging ways of telling the polar bears' story.

The zoo train track is attached to the current polar bear building, adding some complexity to the timing of construction. The train route must be changed and the train track removed before exhibit construction can begin. The zoo staff is working with the zoo design team to determine the appropriate order of construction projects across to zoo so that the train can remain in operation and guests continue to enjoy their zoo visits while new exhibits are built.