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A family observes wildlife at the zoo

Top Stars At Big Bear's Alpine Zoo

Posted: 04/11/14 | By Kelly Garfield

When tourists or locals alike think of zoos in Southern California, one immediately thinks of San Diego's Wild Animal Park or Los Angeles's Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Yet, a little unknown gem resides just a short drive outside of LA and into the San Bernardino Mountains: Big Bear's Alpine Zoo (formerly the Moonridge Animal Park)!

Big Bear Alpine Zoo Grizzly Bear

The Big Bear Alpine Zoo organization has been saving wildlife since 1959 with dedicated volunteers and staff whom aim to rescue, rehabilitate and release hundreds of animals in need. This wildlife zoo offers an experience unlike any other, built into the National Forest of Big Bear Lake’s scenic atmosphere, guests are able to walk through the exhibits and view and learn about animals not normally seen in domesticated city zoos.

The zoo's experience at 7,000 feet in fresh mountain air also includes special programs including "Adopt an Animal", "Flashlight Safari's" and Jazz Fundraisers year round. You will also find panels educating both young and old about animals placed into the zoo for rehabilitation and assistance. The zoo also offers public tours daily in the afternoon, consisting of feedings and speaking candidly about the animals, teaching you facts you wouldn't know otherwise! It creates an entertaining and memorable atmosphere for everyone involved.

The Alpine Zoo also offers a varied gift store completes with stuffed (toy!) bears, necklaces, earrings, postcards and Big Bear Lake memorabilia to treasure. One of the knowledgeable volunteers will be more than happy to help you select the perfect treasure! You'll also find a delightful snack bar with drinks and finger foods for the whole family.

Beloved animals in the zoo have been given names by the staff due to their unique and individual personalities! Listed below are 5 "Star" animals we think you'll just LOVE to visit:

  1. Hucklebeary! The zoo's most recognizable superstar bear has three legs and is a huge fan of cookies. In the wild, their diet consists of roots, nuts, berries and grasses.
  2. Shakespeare! At the zoo since just after its birth, this bobcat is loved by staff and fans alike. This animal is named for the short, bobbed tail.
  3. Aurora! Famously rescued from a roof in Beverley Hills, this Arctic Fox now calls Big Bear home at 7,000 feet. The unique feature of the Arctic fox is their thick fur that allows them to maintain a consistent body temperature.
  4. Tutu! Tutu resides at the Alpine Zoo and may just grin and BEAR it for the cameras! Tutu is the mother of the Alpine Zoo's other two grizzlies, Harley and Ayla, and they are the only family of Grizzly Bears together in captivity in all of California, and possibly in the U.S.
  5. Nono! This adorable barn owl came to the zoo in 2007 and has made everyone his friend. You can find him by listening for his raspy calls, unlike the hoots of other owls.

You can also book longer tours (over an hour long) for groups/schools over ten guests for Docent led guides year round, mid-week. You'll learn interesting facts such as how long a wing span is, what a lion's tongue feels like and why the animals remain in their care. You'll also learn how animals are released and what climate they are best suited for!

Ticket costs for guests 10 year and up is only $12 with smaller children and seniors only $6 per person. The Zoo also offers a military and group discounts along with free parking.

On your next visit to Big Bear, make sure to stop by Big Bear's Alpine Zoo!

Kelly Garfield