News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
November 20, 2023

Note: Scroll to end of press release to download photos.

Orphaned Brown Bears have a Forever Home at Brookfield Zoo
Scheduled to make their public debut in near future

Brookfield, Ill. — Two approximately 10-month-old Alaskan coastal brown bears, who were orphaned in Anchorage, now have a forever home at Brookfield Zoo thanks to the collaborative efforts among the Zoo, Alaska Zoo, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

ADF&G officials safely retrieved the bears in Anchorage and contacted Brookfield Zoo about providing the brother and sister cubs with a permanent home. The young animals were temporarily housed at Alaska Zoo, while logistics were finalized for transporting them to Chicago and cub-safe modifications were completed at the Zoo’s Great Bear Wilderness. Then, on November 3, animal care specialists from Brookfield Zoo accompanied the approximately 150-pound cubs to Chicago, thanks to the extreme generosity of FedEx.

Early last week, the bears received physical examinations to make sure they were meeting their growth milestones. Additionally, the Zoo’s veterinary staff collected blood work, examined the young animals’ extremities and oral cavities, and administered routine vaccinations. The cubs will remain behind the scenes until the lab results are complete. It is anticipated that the cubs will make their public debut in the near future, but until then, they are getting acclimated to their new environment and the animal care staff.

“We are happy to be able to provide the bear cubs a home, where they will receive the best possible care, although the situation is bittersweet,” said Mark Wanner, director of carnivore/small mammal care and conservation at Brookfield Zoo.

The species is found throughout most of Alaska, except on islands south of Frederick Sound in Southeast Alaska, west of Unimak, in the Aleutian Chain, and Bering Sea islands, as well as in Canada, Europe and Asia. Brown bears, including Brookfield Zoo’s two cubs, have access to coastal food sources such as fish, while brown bears that live further inland and typically do not have access to marine prey are called grizzlies, which is considered a subspecies. Brown bears are generally larger than grizzlies, and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds (females weigh less).

The overall global brown bear population is around 200,000, and the species is listed as “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ (IUCN) Red List. Approximately 30,000 bears live in Alaska, where they still face threats of habitat loss due to development, mining, logging, and hunting. In addition, bears are coming into conflict with humans more and more. The bears are attracted to garbage and food left out for pets and wildlife such as birds, and this often leads to the bears being lethally removed from these populated areas.

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Photo Captions (credit: Jim Schulz/CZS-Brookfield Zoo)
1940 and 9102: A 10-month-old female brown bear cub recently arrived at Brookfield Zoo along with her brother from Anchorage, Alaska.

1870, 1979, and 9033: A 10-month-old male brown bear cub at Brookfield Zoo. He and his sister will be making their public debut in the near future.

1198, 1221, and 1226: A 10-month-old female brown bear cub that recently arrived at Brookfield Zoo receives a physical exam by veterinary staff.


About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. The Zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, and CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit