Lake Superior Zoo reopens

Alaskan brown bears are now on exhibit.

Four-year-old twins Avery (left) and Adelyn Kantonen pose for a picture with one of the bears at the Lake Superior Zoo Thursday (Steve Kuchera /

First in line Thursday when the Lake Superior Zoo reopened for members only were Ashley Kantonen and her 4-year-old twin daughters Adelyn and Avery.

“We usually come to the zoo about once a week, and we really wanted to see the bears,” Ashley said. “The girls really love animals.”

The animals seemed to return the feeling Thursday, or maybe they were curious about something they haven’t seen in a while — visitors. At the lion exhibit a lioness walked right up to the Plexiglas separating the big cat and humans.

And much to their delight the twins saw the zoo’s Alaskan brown bears, Tundra and Banks, up close. Thursday was the first day visitors to the zoo could see the bears.

Everyone gets their opportunity Friday, as the zoo reopens to the public after closing nearly three months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Two young visitors watch some of the ring-tailed lemurs at the Lake Superior Zoo on Thursday next to a sign reminding people to practice social distancing. (Steve Kuchera /

This first phase of reopening has visitors follow a one-way, outdoor route through the zoo. Painted arrows and paw prints on the walkway guide visitors, while signs remind them to keep an appropriate distance from other groups — the length of one lion or four ring-tailed lemurs will suffice. Zoo staff are wearing masks, and visitors are encouraged to do so, too.

For now the zoo is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last admissions will be at 4 p.m. Prices for the outdoor-only visits are $10 for ages 13 and older, $5 for ages 3-12 and free for ages 2 and younger.

Felix, a Siberian lynx, watches visitors outside her enclosure Thursday. (Steve Kuchera /

Keeping count as visitors left Thursday so as to know when more people could be allowed in was guest-experiences worker Michele Helbacka.

“It’s a really great day,” she said. “We live to have people come. It’s all about sharing the animals.”


A sign at the Lake Superior Zoo reminds visitors to stay at least the length of four-ring tailed lemurs away from other groups. (Steve Kuchera /

Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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