Next week, we’re opening a completely redesigned home for our two North American black bears. The Hamill Foundation Black Bear Exhibit is the first project to be completed thanks to generous donor support of the Zoo’s Keeping Our World Wild centennial capital campaign. This expansion more than triples the space for five-year-old black bears, Belle and Willow, to explore. The beloved duo got their first look at their new home on Monday, and starting Friday, Aug. 31, guests will be able to experience the world of bears and get nose-to-nose with them through a brand-new glass wall. The expanded habitat was designed to give the bears the highest quality of life and includes engaging features throughout like a revamped water feature, specially created climbing structures, and ample shade.
The Houston Zoo saves bears in the wild by participating in state protection planning in Texas. The team also leads efforts to help save bears in the wild through promotion of paper reduction and the use of recycled paper products. Bears need trees to live, and by using less paper or recycled-content paper products, fewer trees are cut down.
Belle and Willow came to the Houston Zoo in 2013 from California where they were being fed by patrons of a restaurant and appeared to be orphaned. US Fish and Wildlife rescued them and asked the Houston Zoo if it could offer them a home. Belle is often seen playing in the pool and rough-housing with Willow. She is the larger of the two and tends to prefer naps. Willow is the mastermind behind the brawn of Belle. She is smaller and seems to like engaging with her enrichment. You can often see her working through a puzzle feeder.