INNISFAIL — Berkley the Kodiak cub is melting the hearts of visitors to Discovery Wildlife Park.
It was bound to happen. After all, the cub does resemble a plush toy you just want to squeeze.
“Everyone goes — awww — because of the cuteness,” said Serena Bos, Discovery’s head zookeeper and animal trainer on Monday.
In mid-April, the cub weighed 3.8 kilograms (8.6 pounds). Now five-and-a-half-months old, she is a bigger ball of fur at 21.2 kilograms (47.2 pounds).
Berkley is still being bottle fed but has started to eat solid food like meat, fruit and vegetables.
When Berkley’s not exploring, she’s playing and chewing because she’s teething.
“It’s really interesting. Just like little two-year-olds that are teething, when she’s teething she does get a little bit moody. She’s off in comparison to other days when she’s not teething.”
Berkley came from a private facility in the United States because she needed to be separated from her young mother. It was an unexpected pregnancy so the male bear was still with the female and the cub was in danger from the male.
Bos, who is Berkley’s primary caregiver, said it’s a rare opportunity for people to see a bear cub grow up. The zoo regularly puts videos of Berkley on its Facebook page so people can keep up with the cub if they can’t visit.
One woman who died last week from cancer was known to really enjoy the videos during her last days. She met Berkley as a tiny cub and just fell in love, Bos said.
“It’s nice to know that Berkley can make really big differences in ways we don’t always know.”
Visitors can see Berkley and several other bears during bear presentations at Discovery.
Bos said the main focus for their bears is education and research studies. Right now Berkley is taking part in three studies looking at vocalization, growth and stress.
Discovery bears are trained to be able to participate in research, to educate the public, and to improve their quality of life. Some have also acted in a films and commercials.
“Training is considered the highest form of enrichment you can give an animal in captivity. It’s very mentally stimulating. It’s kind of like us going to school or having a job. It gives us a purpose.”
For more information about Discovery Wildlife Park visit www.discoverywildlifepark.com