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Moonridge Animal Park in Big Bear Review

By Anthony Heidenreich

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The Moonridge Animal Park is first and foremost a rescue facility.  It was established in 1959 due to forest fires that devastated the natural ecosystem of the San Bernardino Mountains.  Injured animals are brought there for rehabilitation and a second chance at life in the wild. But for some, returning to the forest is not an option due to human imprinting or injuries that would compromise their survival. For those healthy but non-releasable birds and animals, this 2.5-acre animal park became their protective new home and the site of Moonridge Animal Park.

Turtle


Primarily a zoological facility, Moonridge Animal Park also is a fully licensed, designated care and rehabilitation facility for injured or confiscated animals. Annually, at least 200 injured wild birds and animals are treated here. Over the years, thousands of injured, orphaned, or behaviorally handicapped wildlife have come to Moonridge Animal Park. The majority of animals rehabilitated at the Park have been successfully released to the wild.

Black bears at play.


These mountain lions, Cascade and Canyon, were orphaned as kittens when their mother was killed while raiding a ranch.  Afterwards, the rancher realized that the cat was a recent mother and managed to track down the kittens.  They were brought to the park and nursed back to health.

One of the Mountain Lions


One of the Black Bears, Zuni, was found in a watermelon patch near Barstow; no mother was around, so he was captured and brought to the Park. He was young and very thin when he first arrived at the Park.  Hucklebeary is another of their Black Bears.  He came to them as a very young cub in November 2002.  His severely fractured front leg had to be amputated.  Thanks to a great amount of tender loving care from the keeper staff, he survived a large loss of blood and has a new home in the Park.

Pakuma a Black Bear


The third Black Bear is a female, who was orphaned in Northern California in 2005. She came from the California Fish & Game Department. She was very small under nourished baby with a bad skin infection and missing lots of hair. She is healthy now but imprinted on people and cannot be released.  Some Native American Sorrano members came to the park and conducted a naming ceremony. The bear cub was named   Pakuma, which means one who prays.

Bald Eagle


The snow leopard has been over-hunted for its fur and is now highly endangered. A full-length coat may require up to 16 pelts. The overgrazing of domestic stock and other habitat destruction has also diminished the numbers of wild sheep and goats on which the snow leopard preys. Because of the remoteness of its habitat, no accurate count has ever been made, however, some scientists believe that in all of Central Asia, there are only a few hundred left.

Coatimundi


Their snow leopard, Ivan, was born in 1983 and moved to Moonridge Animal Park in October, 2005. As part of a Species Survival Plan organized by the American Zoo Association, he has been retired from breeding.

Mule Deer


Nova and Wakiza are sisters born in captivity in 2000 at Wolves & Company, an organization that breeds and raises wolves for the television and film industry. At the time they were born, the organization had more animals than were needed, so two came to live at Moonridge when they were one week old.  Shania, with her distinctive dark coat, was also born in captivity at Wolves & Company in 2000, and came to live at Moonridge that same year. The male wolf's name is Navarre.

Red Fox


Although all the park's wolves have been imprinted on by humans their entire lives, they still live under their natural structure as pack animals, with a social hierarchy.

The Red Fox eating


Tutu, the mother bear, was captured near Yellowstone park after returning to human habitation one time too many.  Failing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "Three Strikes You're Out" policy where bears are removed from the wild when they approach a recreational or residential area three times. She was aversive conditioned several times without success. Finally, she and her two new cubs were captured and relocated to Montana. Unfortunately, she exhibited the same behavior there, and the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA was called for assistance, or to euthanize the bears. The zoo was able to provide a temporary home for them until a new facility could be located, or until March 1, 1996, when they would be euthanized.

One of the Grizzlies enjoying a treat


Thanks to generous donations of time, labor and money by people in Big Bear and across the United States, the successful "Grizzlies Come Home" fund-raising campaign raised the funds needed to give these bears a permanent home with their own custom-designed habitat in the Moonridge Animal Park.  

Golden Eagle


Harley is our male cub, who was born in spring, 1995.  He was named by the Inland Empire Chapter of Harley Davidson Owners, who conducted extensive fund raising efforts for the grizzly relocation. He now weighs more than his mother.  Ayla is the female cub, who was born with her brother Harley in the Spring of 1995. She was named by Moonridge zoo keepers after a character in the book "Clan of the Cave Bear."

The hawk's nest.


As grizzlies do not naturally live in family groups after the cubs mature, the grizzly family unit at Moonridge Animal Park is quite unique, and has attracted behavioral research studies by a post-graduate from Cal Poly University, as well as an entire group of research students from Holland.  The bears have adjusted well to their new habitat. They do not go into true hibernation during the winter months, but sleep intermittently, spending a lot of time in their den.

The noon show.


The Moonridge Animal Park also has a number of special programs available.  Over 900 kids a week, in addition to camps, businesses and other interested parties, take part in their unique Traveling Exhibits program. Touching an owl, watching a hawk as it eats its prey, and seeing a raccoon reach its paws into water in search of food are just some of the exceptional learning experiences that you can enjoy in their educationally focused Traveling Exhibits Program.

Daily Programs
3pm Feeding Tour
Follow along as one of the keepers makes the rounds feeding the animals.  The keeper takes time to explain interesting facts about the animals as they are fed, a great opportunity to learn about our wildlife!

Noon Animal Presentation
Gather around for a closer look as a keeper brings one of the animals out onto the grass.  Perhaps an owl, an eagle or maybe the raccoon.  Enjoy an informative talk about the featured animal.

Special Programs
Zoo Camp Ages 6-12
June 26-30 -- Happenin' Herps: Reptiles and Amphibians
July 3-7   -- Bird is the Word: Birds of North America
July 10-14 -- Fur, Fangs, and Fuzz: Mammals
July 17-21 -- Cool Creepy Crawlies: Spiders, Bugs, and other Crawlers
July 24-28 -- Our Unbelievable World: Animal Champions
Call (909) 584-1299 for more details and for registration.
Camp is limited to 20 children per session.

Special Snarls 'n Snooze
During this summer, family overnight camps are available on special Saturday evenings at the zoo,  July-August 2006.  Bring the family for evening zoo tours and animal presentations, behind the scenes tours, a pizza dinner, a sleepover under the stars, and a morning continental breakfast.

Wildlife Awareness Program
A Traveling Wildlife Education Program Featuring Live Animal Ambassadors - available to outdoor science camps, schools and community groups by special arrangements call (909) 584-1299.  Program fees start at $130 per program.

Group Tours of the Zoo
These tours are led by volunteer docent teachers and must be arranged at least two weeks in advance and are offered on a first come- first serve basis.

Zoo Education
Special off-site education programs featuring animal artifacts, slide shows, crafts or "Zoo Tales" designed to meet the educational needs of small groups by special arrangements with Zoo Curator (909) 584-1299. Cost $120.00 per program and 40 cents per mile traveling expense.

Flashlight Safari
Experience the park's nocturnal animals. Gates open 6:15 PM and close at 6:45 PM to start the tour.  Bring your flashlight and wear warm clothes.

The park runs primarily on of donations and volunteer support.  For every employee, there are 10 volunteers.  In 2009, the Moonridge Animal Park will be moving to the Living Forest Wildlife Center.  Spearheaded by the non-profit Friends of the Moonridge Zoo, the Home For Life campaign is an urgent drive to secure a permanent home where every Moonridge Animal Park inhabitant can live out its life.

Great Blue Heron


Vital support, in the form of private donations, is being sought to supplement limited federal and state grant monies for the move. Funds raised in the Home For Life campaign will go towards the phased development of a new facility, and the task of physically moving the animals to their permanent new home.

Information on Hours and Tours:  (909) 878-4200
Gift Store:  (909) 584-1171
Injured animal hotline: (909) 584-1299
Moonridge Animal Park Curator's Office: (909) 584-1299
Group tours & zoo camp information: (909) 866-9700
E-mail:  [email protected]
Website: http://www.moonridgezoo.org/

Friends of the Moonridge Zoo
P.O. Box 2557
Big Bear City, CA  92314-2557

Published on Apr 02, 2011

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