By Jill Burbank
Senior Forests Keeper
We recently celebrated a special birthday in the Forest area here at the Indianapolis Zoo. Our female Alaskan brown bear, Kiak, turned the big 1-0 this winter!
Kiak has been a part of our Zoo family since 2008 when she was picked up by the DNR after she was orphaned when she was just a cub. While we don’t know her exact date of birth, brown bear cubs are born in dens during January and February, so we knew Kiak was only a few months old when she was found.
Here at the Zoo, Kiak shares her habitat with her buddy, our male bear Mi-kal. While the bears are adorable and impressive to watch, they are also helping to raise awareness for an important conservation message — encountering a bear in the wild is something you want to avoid.
A bear’s natural habitat is also a popular destination for people. Whether you are hiking, sightseeing or camping, you should always use caution and follow the Leave No Trace principles. This includes picking up and properly disposing of all trash, storing food in bear-safe containers while camping, and not approaching or feeding wildlife. When bears encounter humans in the wild, they become desensitized and less afraid, especially if they learn that people have food. That can be very dangerous for both people and bears.
Unfortunately, Kiak was orphaned after her mother had a dangerous interaction with people, which is all too common for bears in the wild. Since Kiak would not have survived on her own in the wild at her age, she placed here at the Indianapolis Zoo. We received Mi-kal, another orphaned cub, in 2010.
For the last 10 years, Kiak has been an incredible ambassador for her counterparts in the wild. Every day, she helps her keepers spread the message about conservation to our visitors. She also inspires people to care about species that may be hundreds of miles away. She has won the hearts of her keepers and guests with her sassy and ornery personality. She is very smart, playful and sometimes mischievous, often creeping up behind Mi-kal to swat him on the back side and then running away.
Thanks to everyone who visits Kiak here at the Indianapolis Zoo. We hope she brings a smile to your face as much as she does for her care staff on a daily basis. It’s so important that we all learn how to help protect her counterparts in the wild as well as many other species that call the Zoo home.
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