Zoo welcomes summer with bear awareness activities

Keeper talks, enrichment will highlight importance of co-existing with bears

The Oregon Zoo is welcoming summer with a special bear awareness day June 22. At 11 a.m., keepers will be placing a campsite (minus the campers) right in the middle of Black Bear Ridge for the zoo's four black bears — Dale, Cubby, Tuff and Takoda — to ransack.

"We are going to set up a campsite for the bears to explore — and quite possibly destroy," said Julie Christie, senior keeper for the zoo's North America area. "The campsite will include sleeping bags and the usual camping items — a lot of it crafted by zoo volunteers out of cardboard and papier-mâché."

The zoo's volunteer enrichment team has been hard at work crafting detailed items like a campfire, a pan sizzling with bacon and eggs, and containers of Crisco, honey, and pork and beans.

"The purpose of this is to keep the bears active and engaged, and at the same time educate people about camping in bear territory," Christie said. "It's important to make sure food is stored properly and garbage isn't left out."

At 1:30 p.m., polar bears Conrad and Tasul will take the spotlight, with a feeding and keeper talk.

At 7 p.m., songwriting legend John Prine kicks off the zoo's summer concert series. No word on whether Prine will be playing his song "Bear Creek Blues" that evening, but music fans who want to catch some of the day's bear-related activities are in luck: In a new offering this year, concert tickets are good for zoo admission all day on the date of the show. For more concert information and a full schedule, visit zooconcerts.com.