Mill Mountain Zoo announces new black bear exhibit

Black bear, Photo Date: 9/22/2016 (PIXNIO)
Black bear, Photo Date: 9/22/2016 (PIXNIO)(KMVT)
Published: Mar. 3, 2020 at 10:08 AM EST
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Mill Mountain Zoo announced Tuesday that construction will begin on a new American Black Bear exhibit.

The project will involve renovation of the former cougar habitat, which was also once home to Ruby the Tiger. Additions will include an observation deck, wading pond, landscaping and new holding areas for the bears.

Construction of the exhibit will be done by R.L. Price Construction Inc., the company that first built Ruby the Tiger's exhibit over 29 years ago.

The new exhibit is being built thanks to more than $300,000 in gifts from the Kitas and Lutsko Family Foundation and Barbara and Ed Kitas.

“We are extremely fortunate to have the support of Barbara and Ed,” says Derek Kellogg, Mill Mountain Zoo Co-Director. “Their passion for conservation and education through the work of the Zoo made all of this possible.”

Upon its completion, the new exhibit will become the largest successfully completed capital campaign for the zoo since the 1991 opening of Ruby the Tiger's exhibit.

The American black bear is one of Virginia’s largest and most charismatic animals. As omnivores, they use their intelligence, curiosity and strength to explore a wide variety of foods in their habitat. This makes them an integral part of Virginia’s natural environments. While found throughout the state, black bears are most common along Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

While bears have long captured people’s imaginations, the challenge of peaceful co-existence with expanding human populations has been a challenge for bears. Of the eight species of bear found throughout the world, six are listed as vulnerable to endangered.

“Many of the black bears seen at zoos and nature centers are there because they have had a negative interaction with a human neighbor. Our hope at Mill Mountain Zoo, is to educate and inspire our guests about ways in which they can protect this iconic symbol of the Appalachians," said Mill Mountain Zoo Co-Director Robin Lentz.

The zoo expects construction to begin this spring, with hopes of a completion date later in 2020.

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