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Hudson’s Debut

Published: 03/23/2013

After seeing snow for the first time, Hudson did what came naturally.

The 17-month-old, 410-pound polar bear dashed over banks, stuffed his snout into piles of snow and snorted the white stuff up in the air.

Introducing Hudson at the Assiniboine Park Zoo Hudson makes his public debut in Winnipeg on Valentine's Day 2013. Photo courtesy Assiniboine Park Zoo.

In other words, he had a ball.

That's exactly what Assiniboine Park zookeepers were hoping for.

In late January 2013, Hudson became Winnipeg's newest celebrity. He arrived in Winnipeg on a red-eye cargo flight from Toronto, where he was born in captivity. A Winnipeg zookeeper, who's also a polar bear expert, went to Toronto in advance so she could become familiar with Hudson and hopefully ease the transition.

Turns out, he was just fine.

"He's very relaxed in his new home and he certainly loves the snow and winter weather," says Tim Sinclair-Smith, Director of Zoological Operations at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Hudson swiftly acclimatized to his new environs, a massive indoor and outdoor enclosure and expansive pool built for him.

Hudson's home is three times as big as the zoo's former polar bear enclosure, which housed Debby, who died at age 42 in 2008. (Debby was a crowd favourite and named the world's oldest polar bear by the Guinness Book of World Records.)

Hudson's visitors can also get a good look at him from inside Tundra Grill, an adjacent gift shop and restaurant equipped with three-inch-thick, floor to ceiling windows looking into the bear's enclosure.

Diners will be nearly nose to nose with the massive beast. The restaurant also has a special exhaust system that prevents food aromas from wafting into Hudson's enclosure. The new space includes an indoor, polar-themed playground for kids with a virtual ice flow that cracks with each step.

In the future, the zoo team hopes to mate Hudson with a willing female as part of a long-term conservation program.

Hudson is the first inhabit of Assiniboine Park Zoo's new exhibit Journey to Churchill, which is expected to be complete in 2014.

The zoo is also home to the newly opened, International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, a research, education and rehabilitation facility for orphaned or abandoned polar bear cubs. When completed, Journey to Churchill will be an educational and entertaining homage to the northern Manitoba town, the polar bear capital of the world.

Meet Hudson at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo during regular hours, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. (Gates close at 3:30 p.m.)

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