Ten grizzly bears are getting used to their new home in Colorado after completing a 5,521-mile journey last week.
The flock of furry carnivores flew from Argentina to Dallas, where wildlife officials arranged to drive them to Keenesburg, Colo.
They’re now in the care of Colorado’s Wild Animal Sanctuary, northeast of Denver. The bears came from the defunct Mendoza Zoological Park in Argentina, which closed two years ago.
"We would love for them to go back to the wild if they could,” Wild Animal Sanctuary director Pat Craig said. “So what we try to do is give them the next best thing, which is as close to living in the wild as possible."
Many of the bears are related, and they’ve lived mostly in cages and on concrete surfaces, Craid said.
“It was definitely a difficult environment,” he said. “One of them was kept in a concrete pit for almost 19 years because he escaped at one point from the zoo, so they felt he needed to basically be in solitary confinement,” he said.
The nonprofit carnivore sanctuary first connected with the zoo in Argentina a few years ago, when the South American facility sparked controversy worldwide after its only polar bear died.
The Colorado facility tried to help the zoo relocate the 30-year-old polar bear to Canada before its death, Craig said. So when zookeepers needed a place to send its ten grizzly bears, they reconnected with the Colorado sanctuary.
After an initial adjustment period, the group plans to move the bears to a 50-acre habitat at its new wildlife refuge near Springfield, Colorado. There, they’ll be surrounded by trees, hills and open spaces and far away from public view.