Species Spotlight: Black Bear Cubs Willow and Belle

Our American black bear cubs, Willow and Belle, are anything but ordinary. In fact, they are not black at all! The Zoo received these orphaned cubs in December 2013 and initially weighed 40 pounds. However, carnivore keeper Stephanie Mantilla reported that Willow is 139 pounds, and Belle is 148 pounds. Some of their favorite foraging foods include grapes, bananas, avocados and hard boiled eggs! Needless to say, the girls adjust well to life at the Zoo.

Interestingly enough, the girls are often mistaken for grizzly cubs. American black bears are actually most similar to the Asian black bear, and are very different from grizzly bears based on size and profile. Grizzlies are much larger in size, and have an “angled” profile because their shoulder blades stick out; black bears are smaller framed and have a more “straight” profile due to their smaller shoulder blades. The shade of black bear fur even differs from region to region! Willow and Belle both came from California and Mantilla said black bears from that region have a cinnamon-colored coat. In warmer areas, their fur looks blacker because of the heat.

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While black bears in general are listed as “least concern”, their conservation status differs depending on the state. Black bears in Louisiana and various parts of Texas are listed as endangered, and each individual state lists their own sub-species of black bears as endangered or not.

“There are different sub-species of black bears, like the Louisiana black bear,” Mantilla said. “Black bears are a little bit genetically isolated, so it determines whether or not if they’re endangered or not. But overall, black bears are the highest populated bear species in the world, and they’re doing pretty well.”

And while some may think hunting is the biggest threat to this species, Mantilla added that feeding bears actually causes the most harm to them. She said it is best to refrain from feeding wild bears because they are so intelligent, they will remember where to go to find more food.

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Even though the black bear are listed as “least concern”, the Zoo is committed to bringing awareness and conservation efforts for all species living here. The Zoo will hold Bear Awareness Day on Saturday, April 4 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. All proceeds will go to the East Texas Black Bear Task Force, an organization dedicated to restoring the black bear’s historic range in east Texas through education, research and habitat management. The event will take place in front of the bear exhibits. Stop by and say hi to Willow and Belle!



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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

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Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?

 

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Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Pauline Ervin

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Brrrr. It’s cold out there! We have made the decision to close the Houston Zoo tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 17. Don’t worry, the animals are safe and warm in their night houses!

A limited number of staff from departments like Animal Programs, Safety and Security and Operations/Facilities will be onsite to perform essential services and have the Zoo ready for us to reopen Thursday morning.

A big ol' high-five to our awesome team members who braved this icy cold to come in and care for our animals and zoo facilities.
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Safety and welfare of the animals first! Thanks guys for all you do.

Yes thank you for everything yall do to keep the animals safe .. y'all keep safe and warm

Thank you for taking good care of our animals!

Thank u for keeping those Babies safe and warm!❤️

Thank you for all you do!

Thank you for ZOO LIGHTS. it was amazing this year!

Thank you, zoo team. Stay safe!

Mandy Rinker— really? Too cold? You’re from the Midwest girl

💙

thank you for all you do and keep the furry babies warm

Ty

Thank you for taking care of our precious animals that we love to come see!

Thank you for keeping those beautiful animals safe. 💕

Thank you for making sure the animals are safe and warm.

Thank you for all you do for these amazing animals!!

Go, Erika!!!

Thank you 💕

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