There's another reason to visit the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro this holiday week: Patches, the zoo's new female polar bear, is now on exhibit.
The 26-year-old bear has been on view since Thursday. She moved from the Erie, Pa., zoo to the N.C. Zoo in late November, but has been getting acclimated to her new home since then.
According to a zoo press release, Patches preferred staying outdoors instead of going inside after zoo closing hours, which made it difficult for keepers to clean her outdoor area and take care of routine maintenance.
Dr. Adrian Fowler, the zoo's curator of mammals, said in the release that a month of diligent training efforts by keepers has improved her willingness to go indoors. But though the exhibit is now open to the public, hydraulic “shift doors” will remain open giving the bear access to both the exhibit and holding quarters, the release said. There may be periods when Patches will not be in public view.
The zoo's polar bear exhibit is undergoing an $8.5 million renovation and expansion for the last couple of years. Patches is on view in the older part of the zoo's exhibit while construction continues.