Published in the Cochrane Times-Post on September 17, 2020.
While July and August have traditionally been the busiest time for visitors at the Habitat, this year has been anything but normal, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Overall, we have welcomed fewer visitors this summer compared to last, but there have been days that have rivalled last year’s numbers — just with more masks and sanitizer, of course. We are encouraged by these numbers and are committed to promoting safe tourism in and around Cochrane.
In speaking with guests, it seems that many are Northern Ontario residents who have chosen to travel closer to home than usual. As we continue to navigate the pandemic, there is a clear opportunity to promote domestic tourism and to focus on making the Canadian Polar Bear Habitat a household name within both the province and the country.
We are working toward this goal online, too. In fact, over the summer, we hit a major milestone on our social media channels; our Facebook and Instagram pages both reached 10,000 followers. We have also continued to offer virtual tours to groups throughout the province.
As the weather continues to cool, we are excited to provide more opportunities for the bears to interact. At this point in the year, we are firmly outside of breeding season, and we begin to see the bears show more interest in being around each other. Henry and Inukshuk have already had a few days with access to the same spaces, and it has gone well.
Besides a few sparring matches, they’ve also spent time swimming alongside each other in the lake. This time together is excellent mental and physical stimulation for both bears.
Last month, we had the chance to be part of a programming challenge called a Hackathon. A Montreal-based group called Kurius aims to connect non-profit organizations with budding young computer programmers to give them the chance to develop skills to tackle real-life problems. In the Hackathon, we asked the programmers to help us connect virtually with students, and the results were amazing. In just 48 hours, different teams submitted working games, mobile apps, augmented reality platforms, and websites with fun new elements. It was a wonderful experience to judge the submissions and to see the potential of our facility through the eyes of such bright young minds.
Finally, we will be saying farewell to Eddy this week. Eddy joined us in February of 2019 as a temporary measure to allow major renovations to his permanent home at the Quebec Aquarium, and his upgraded space is now ready for him. We have been sure to update his permanent care team with everything we have observed and learned as we watched him build relationships with our animal care staff and our other bears. Not long after Eddy returns to the Quebec Aquarium, he will be joined by two male bears from Toronto, and we are excited for him to have this new experience.