Aurora inspires guests to Defend the Ice

February 22, 2018

Seneca Park Zoo is home to Aurora, a 28-year-old female polar bear. Working with her is one of the best parts of my day. Aurora is the first bear I’ve ever worked with, and it’s been an amazing experience to learn with her. She has a very calm, good-natured personality and enjoys spending time with her keepers every day. First thing in the morning, she is typically inside to greet us while we start preparing her diet. Her daily diet consists of a mixture of fish (herring, capelin, trout, salmon), lard, fish oil, meat, chow, daily vitamins, and a special treat such as yogurt, a meat-based baby food, or fruit. Some days she is picky and will only eat a few things, while other days she will eat everything we give to her.

We keep a daily log for Aurora where we write down what she eats and how much, and if she had any abnormal or significant behaviors that day. Filling out these logs help to ensure that we are providing the best care possible, and by watching her behavior every day, we can tell if something is off.

Beginning in late fall, Aurora will make the transition into denning season. This is when females in their natural range will dig a den to live in for the next few months – the bear will give birth in this den and raise her cubs until they are ready to venture out in the world. Even though Aurora is an older bear, she still goes through this process. She becomes less active, goes outside less often, and sleeps much more. Her appetite decreases and she’ll be selective about what she will and will not eat. Aurora will spend most of her time resting indoors, where her favorite spot to rest is the den where we provide straw for her to create a cozy space for herself.

During late winter, and from early spring to summer, Aurora is very active and enjoys exploring enrichment items. We change her enrichment every day to keep her mind active. We’ll spread different spices, herbs, or perfumes around her habitat, provide straw from different species in the Zoo, and scatter food. One of my favorite things to do is give her an ice block of fish, which makes her exhibit a natural behavior of pounding on the ice to break it open. This time of year, Aurora can also be found rolling around in the snow or swimming in the pool.

Photo by Hanna Kaiser

Aurora is an ambassador for polar bears in their natural range. When she swims past guests and I see them in awe, laughing, and smiling, I know a connection has been made. With this personal connection, it’s our hope that guests will want to help protect polar bears in their natural ranges.

– Hanna Kaiser, Zoo Keeper