Gift from Centene Charitable Foundation

The Saint Louis Zoo received a leadership gift from Centene Charitable Foundation, it was announced today, August 17, 2017. Centene Grizzly Ridge, the culminating project of The Living Promise Campaign, will open on September 15, 2017.

"We are so grateful to the Centene Charitable Foundation and many other donors for supporting the Saint Louis Zoo Association for this exhibit," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO, Saint Louis Zoo. "Because of their generosity, we have built a state-of-the-art exhibit that demonstrates how the Zoo combines its innovative exhibit history and dedication to animal welfare."

The $11.1 million state-of-the-art habitat is twice the size of the old bear grottos, including approximately 7,000 square feet of outdoor habitat, which features a large freshwater wading pool, waterfall and stream, climbing and back-scratching rocks, a variety of substrates (grasses, mulch and sand), and other features to stimulate the bears mentally and physically. The new habitat also has over 3,300 square feet of behind-the-scenes space.

This exhibit was made possible by the generosity of many donors, including a meaningful contribution from the Centene Charitable Foundation.

"The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the region's greatest attractions and is recognized as one of the nation's top wildlife conservation, research and education centers," said Marcela Manjarrez-Hawn, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Centene. "The Centene Charitable Foundation is proud to be a part of bringing this new exhibit to our hometown."

Some of the other supporters are recognized at the various viewing points into the bears' expansive outdoor habitat: Grizzly Glade, a gift from The Bellwether Foundation, Grizzly Hollow, a gift from the Hermann Family, Palisades Overlook, a gift from Safety National, and River Bluff Overlook, a gift from U.S. Bank.

"This new exhibit allows us to provide our grizzly bears with excellent daily care and a very enriching environment," said Saint Louis Zoo Curator of Mammals/Carnivores Steve Bircher. "We really think that visitors will love seeing these large carnivores up close in a way they've never been able to before. It's through these personal connections that we hope to inspire people to advocate for these animals in the wild."

In 2010, the Zoo launched The Living Promise Campaign to raise $120 million for the building of dynamic, new animal exhibits, enhance the visitor experience, improve the Zoo's infrastructure and strengthen its endowment. The Zoo exceeded the $120 million goal by $14 million when the Campaign ended in 2014. Grizzly Ridge is the culminating project for the Campaign. In addition to providing funds to build Grizzly Ridge, McDonnell Polar Bear Point, and Sea Lion Sound, the Campaign has covered the costs of converting the old elephant house into Peabody Hall, creating the Wells Fargo South Arrival Experience, building the Myron Glassberg Family Maintenance Facility, adding a fourth naturalistic area for elephants — Elephant Woods — and three new River's Edge habitats for painted dogs, Andean bears and Malayan sun bears.

Historic and State-of-the-Art Design

Grizzly Ridge is located on the site of the Zoo’s historic bear grottos, which closed for construction in late 2015. When the grottos were built in the early 1920s, they were considered cutting-edge, and the Saint Louis Zoo was one of the first zoos in the world to replace barred cages with the open, moated enclosures. The new habitat retains three-fifths of the original rockwork, which was cast from Missouri limestone palisades. All new rock work was designed to reflect the historic look.

Visitors can view the bears through a total of 22 glass-panel windows, which offer a panoramic view into the bears’ outdoor habitat. Some of the features and viewing areas of Grizzly Ridge include:

  • Bellwether Foundation Grizzly Glade, a dramatic view of thePool and Waterfall, backed by a rocky bluff, where visitors can watch the bears frolic both from above and below the water as they splash around and play, attempting to catch fish.

  • The Hermann Family Grizzly Hollow, which allows visitors the opportunity to watch the bears come in and out of the water as well as explore looking for on-land enrichment opportunities.

  • The River Bluff and Palisades Overlooks provide varying views into the bears’ expansive outdoor habitat.

  • Cub Crawl, a crawl-through cave where kids may see a bear nose-to-nose.

  • “Waiting for Sockeye” sculptureby renowned artist Kent Ullberg personifies a grizzly bear waiting for his next meal of sockeye salmon.

  • The Trail Shelter resembles a three-sided structure provided for hikers in wilderness areas, where Zoo staff and volunteers will convey key conservation messages and answer questions.  

The Bears

The first residents of Grizzly Ridge are two orphaned grizzly bear siblings from Montana. When the exhibit opened in September 2017, the bears were 2½ years old, and Huckleberry, or Huck, (male) weighed 350 pounds, and Finley (female) weighed 250 pounds. They were rescued as cubs near Ferndale in northwestern Montana on July 15, 2016, when their mother was removed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Service for repeated nuisance behavior around humans. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Service signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016 that determined the cubs would temporarily stay at ZooMontana until their permanent home at the Saint Louis Zoo was complete. 

Meet Our New Grizzly Cubs

Education and Interpretation

Visitors have the opportunity to learn about bears through interactive graphics explaining how humans and bears can peacefully coexist in the animals’ native habitats. At the Trail Shelter, Zoo educational interpreters and docents interact with visitors through role playing, storytelling, and question and answer sessions about bear natural behavior, conservation and ways to help bears in the wild.

About Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bears are brown bears, one of the largest and most widely distributed bear species. Brown bears are normally dark brown, but their color may range from light cream to almost black. “Grizzly” describes the smaller of the two North American subspecies where the guard hairs around their face are white, giving them a grizzled appearance. Brown bears live in dense forests, tundra and lower alpine mountain regions. In North America, they can be found in western Canada, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington. Brown bears are listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act. Their greatest threat to survival is human encroachment and ensuing habitat loss. This is a problem because the bears tend to congregate near abundant food sources, such as dumpsites, berry patches and salmon spawning areas.

Grizzly Bears