SALT LAKE CITY - Polar bears are the world's largest land based predators, apex hunters with no natural enemies from Siberia to the Hudson Bay; yet somehow at the same time they are some of the cutest, most playful animals at the zoo.
New additions to Utah's Hogle Zoo Hope and Nora are proving that.
"They're both really playful. They're young bears. They're playful, outgoing and they interact with us," said Rebecca Westover, the primary relief keeper for the Rocky Shores exhibit at Utah's Hogle Zoo.
Hope and Nora are each 2 years old, and both were born in zoos in Ohio, but they took dramatically different routes to Utah.
Hope grew up with her mother at the Toledo Zoo, and was looking for a new home as she started reaching maturity.
Nora was rejected by her mother at the Columbus Zoo, possibly because she had a metabolic bone disease. Zookeepers were able to raise her, supplementing her diet with calcium. She has grown into a healthy adolescent, and was a star at the Portland zoo before transferring again to Utah, in order to have a social life with another polar bear.
"They're getting to know each other. Hopefully they'll be the best of friends," Westover said.
The two bears were kept apart as they acclimated to the zoo, but they have recently been allowed to share the exhibit together with good results.
Westover said they were surprised that Nora, who is less experienced with other bears, was the extrovert.
"She kinda went right up to Hope and was like, 'Hi friend!' and Hope got a little nervous and ran away," Westover said.