March 24, 2015 - 7:29 PM
KAMLOOPS - Clover is slowly waking from hibernation, having peeked his nose out earlier this month, but the public will have to wait about another month before they can get a glimpse of the white black bear.
The Kermode bear, or spirit bear, will wake to a newly completed B.C. Wildlife Park habitat meant to mimic the northern forests he was originally from. Between fundraising and construction, the habitat has been in the works for nearly two years.
Clover was orphaned in 2011 and began seeking out humans at northern camps. He came to the Kamloops zoo in October 2012 when efforts to rehabilitate him failed and it was thought he would not likely survive outside of captivity. Fundraising for a secure habitat for Clover began in 2013 and the following year construction began. The first phase, the habitat portion, of the new 2.8-acre facility is now mostly complete.
A denning and housing building, natural vegetation, two large ponds and a rock bed creek are among the items already finished. Phase two will be completed this year and will include an interpretive centre, a viewing platform and an elevated walkway for park guests.
At a December council meeting Park General Manager Glenn Grant said the hope is to be able to move some of the other bears into the habitat with Clover. The plan is to have one of the females moved in first, with the hopes of the two bonding, before other bears are moved in. Grant notes mating is out of the question because the local zoo is not set up as a breeding facility.
It is estimated only 400 Kermode bears exist in the wild, with most in a very specific northern region of B.C. A recessive gene leaves the black bear hair white. There is only about a 10 per cent chance of any Clover babies being white, and both his siblings were black.
Grant expects Clover will bring in many new visitors to the area. International marketing will take place and Destination B.C. has brought people in, including many tour bus groups already booked for May through September.
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