Walking with tigers… and bears and otters

The grandkids got up close and personal with some of the Minnesota Zoo animals that were feeling quite social on our last visit.

minnesota-zoo- amur tiger

The glass partition makes it seem like you really are walking with the tiger in this enclosure at the Minnesota Zoo.  Weight of this Amur Tiger – 300-400 pounds, body length – 6-9 feet; small grandchild, just a snack size for this largest species of the cat family.

Amur Tigers are the top predators in temperate forests of eastern Asia, but are threatened in their native habitat because of loss their wild hunting grounds, human competition for their favored prey (deer and boar), and removal due to their potential for predation of livestock.  The Minnesota Zoo has been instrumental in coordinating the Tiger Species Survival Plan and in rearing more than 40 tiger cubs.  Only about 360 of these tigers remain in the wild.

minnesota-zoo-Amur Tiger

Minnesota’s temperate forest and shrub environment is similar to the Amur Tiger’s native habitat, but instead of pacing this roomy enclosure in a zoo, wild tigers would roam over a 400 square mile home range.  You can see how the striped coat is good camouflage in the dappled light of a dense forest.

minnesota-zoo-Amur Tiger

Zoo environments are wonderful for conserving rare species and educating the public about conservation efforts, and they are also great places for animal photography.

minnesota-zoo-Brown Bear

You wouldn’t want to be this close without a thick pane of glass between you, but the Brown Bear must have been as curious about my granddaughter as she was about it.

minnesota-zoo-Brown Bear

A really big head and really big feet with really long claws make this Brown Bear (or Grizzly Bear) of the eastern Russian coast (Kamchatka) and Kenai peninsula of Alaska a fearsome predator.

The Zoo’s three Brown Bears were orphaned and rescued by Alaskan conservation personnel in 2006 and found a home at the Minnesota Zoo.  At full adult size they may stand up to 10 feet and weigh in excess of 1000 pounds, making them one of the largest land predators on earth (along with Polar Bears).  Once found throughout the northern hemisphere in both North America and EurAsia, their range is now limited to wild and protected areas on those continents, but they are not endangered.

minnesota-zoo-Brown Bear

Showing off and having a good soak before a nap.

minnesota-zoo-sea otters

A couple of sea otters were play-fighting with each other while the grandkids watched.

minnesota-zoo-sea otters

Sea Otters are playful but these two looked pretty serious about biting and wrestling with each other.

Sea Otters have recovered somewhat from overhunting in the early 1900s when their world population was down to a couple of thousand animals.  They thrive in the cold waters and kelp forests of the eastern Russian and northwestern U.S. coasts, where they might eat up to 30% of their body weight per day in shellfish and a variety of other invertebrates, as well as fish.

seaotters-mn-zoo

Inquisitive and friendly behavior, especially in the Zoo environment, makes them a crowd-pleaser.  Photo from the MN Zoo.

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