View Full Version : The bears in the Bear Mountain Zoo

12-12-2005, 20:05
Just curious, how many of you hiking the AT look into the bear compound at the Bear Mountain Zoo & Trailside Museum to see if there is a bear there? It is located on the AT in New York just before the crossing of the Hudson River. Here is an article in my local Times Herald-Record that I thought I'd share.
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Bear Mountain - Two cuddly cinnamon-colored bear cubs might have cost one woman her job.

Jennifer Verstraete spent 14 years caring for animals as head zookeeper at the Trailside Museum and Zoo at Bear Mountain but was fired, she says, for introducing two bear cubs to the park.

Verstraete used her summer vacation in July to rescue the cubs from an illegal breeding operation. Thinking she would return to the zoo to do what she'd always done - helping new animals adjust to their new surroundings - she instead was greeted with a suspension.

Verstraete said zoo officials cited insubordination for her suspension. But in the past she said she never had to get permission to bring a new animal to the zoo.

In fact, a job review letter written by former Trailside Museum and Zoo director Jack Focht lists animal acquisitions as one of Verstraete's responsibilities.

Three months after being suspended, she was fired.

"I was terminated without the possibility of ever being able to work there again," Verstraete said.

She believes the real reason she was fired was because the zoo was not ready to make a 30-year commitment to take care of the bears.

"They kept the bears and I couldn't be happier for their safety and health. But they have a home. I got fired and now the zoo is making money off of this."

The zoo had no comment.

Verstraete said she brought the bears to the zoo because she and park patrons felt that the Bear Mountain Zoo's current black bear, known as "The Rebel," needed company
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Maybe there is more between the lines, but I thought I'd share this tidbit.

12-12-2005, 20:48
I saw them on a return visit this year, and that is sad news. Unless there is some untold story I think she and the bears got a very raw deal.

12-12-2005, 22:57
That bear compound is one disturbing, cement hell-hole. It is bad news all around.

12-13-2005, 11:17
Pretty sad sight. Those bears look like they're in pretty bad shape. At least they did when I passed through in 2003.


12-13-2005, 12:19
All the animals in the Bear Mountain Trailside Museum/Zoo are said to be injured and unable to survive in the wild. But the bear enclosure does look pretty grim.
If you read the whole article, it mentions that Ms. Verstraete's job was to procure animals for the zoo, that she's been working at the zoo for 14 years without missing a day, another worker who helped her bring in the bear cubs was not fired, and the zoo is keeping the bear cubs anyway. The whole thing smells fishy.

12-13-2005, 14:51
Yeah, it seems like she got a raw deal. There must be something else to the story.

I did 2 section hikes through the zoo this year, the last of which was only a month ago. This photo was taken Nov. 8.

Jack Tarlin
12-13-2005, 19:51
Taking care of two bears for thirty years is a prety daunting expense.

So is improving and updating the cages and pens of the Zoo's animals.

How many folks who are troubled by this have made a contribution to the Zoo's improvement fund? Or bothered to contribute a few measly bucks when they hiked thru Bear Mountain?

The bottom line is that over the years, LOTS of folks have complained about conditions at the zoo, but it's a fact that nearly ALL of the resident animals were either born in captivity, arrived wonded, ill, or from other institutions, and for one reason or another, cannot realistically be returned to the wild.

For better or worse, these animals would be DEAD without this zoo as their home, and I've talked with many zoo employees over the years who love their work, and their animal charges, very much.

Anyone truly concerned about the zoo, it's animals, and their condition, should get in touch with the Zoo and see how they can help this understaffed and underfunded institution. (And for that matter, of the 8,000 thru-hikers who've passed thru the zoo, and have walked by the zoo's contribution boxes, I wonder how many have bought sodas or ice creram but not tossed twenty cents in the the gift boxes).

It's great that some Whiteblazers are concerned about these matters, but there's a better way to show your concern, if it's genuine:

Go to www.friendsofpalisades.org, and click on the "Becoming a Friend" section, where it'll tell you how you can support the zoo, adopt an animal, volunteer, and help in all sorts of ways.

If you need another charitable gift idea for Christmas, here's your chance.