Just in time for the Labor Day weekend crowds, the Houston Zoo has unveiled a new home for its two North American black bears. The newly expanded Hamill Foundation Black Bear Exhibit more than triples the space for the popular, five-year-old black bears — Belle and Willow — to roam, explore, and of course, nap.
Beginning August 31, zoo visitors can enjoy a closer look at Belle and Willow and even get nose-to-nose with them through a brand-new glass wall. The expanded habitat also features a revamped water feature, specially created climbing structures, and ample shade.
A crowd favorite since their arrival in 2013, Belle and Willow came to the Houston Zoo in from California, where, appearing to be orphaned cubs, they were being fed by patrons of a restaurant. They were rescued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department and relocated to Houston.
The duo is known for charming and distinct personalities: Belle, the larger of the two, is often seen playing in the pool and rough-housing with Willow. (She’s also fond of naps.) Willow has been dubbed the “mastermind behind the brawn of Belle” — she’s smaller and is often seen engaging with her enrichment. She enjoys the working through the puzzle feeder.
The Hamill Foundation Black Bear Exhibit comes courtesy of the zoo’s Keeping Our World Wild centennial capital campaign. The bears’ new digs are the first project to be completed under the new campaign.