Arctic Encounter Exhibit at Toledo Zoo (DreamingKoala – Creative Commons Licence)


Location: Toledo Zoo and Aquarium


Site: 2 Hippo Way, Toledo, Ohio 43609, USA

Postal: P.O. Box 140130, Toledo, Ohio 43614, USA

Telephone: +1 (001) 419 385 5721

Website contact form or email link:  None found


Exhibit:  The Arctic Encounter


Crystal (female).  Born in captivity 10 November 1998 in Le Monde Sauvage, d’Aywaille, Belgium.  Arrived at Toledo Zoo 30 April 2000.

Nuka (male).  Born 25 November 2004 in Denver Zoo, USA.  Arrived at Toledo Zoo 8 January 2022 from  Detroit Zoo.


Construction of the Arctic Encounter Exhibit began in May 1998 and was completed at a final total cost of around $11,500,00, opening to the public in January 2000.  The exhibit houses polar bears, gray and harbor seals and wolves.  The total area is 4,000 square metres (2.3 acres) and incorporates two waterfalls and seven saltwater streams.

Outside, the polar bears have access to 560 square metres (0.14 of an acre) of land surface and a 144 square metre (152 square yard) saltwater pool.  The pool depth varies from 240 to 360 cm (8 to 12 feet)  and contains 90,000 US gallons of water (340,000 litres).  Electric fencing surrounds the exhibit areas and public viewing is through large glass panels, including an underwater viewing area and access to the polar bear cave.

Off exhibit the polar bear and seal building covers 351 square metres (420 square yards).  For the bears includes five holding pens, each approximately 360 by 330 cm (12 by 11 feet) and a birthing den 225 by 180 cm (7½ by 6 feet).  There is also a 10,000 US gallon (38,000 litres) saltwater holding pool measuring 1,440 by 840 cm (47 by 28 feet) and a 930 by 2130 cm (31 by 70 feet) dig yard.

The holding building includes a staff kitchen and office and a veterinary clinic.

Except for cleaning, training and health inspections the polar bears have 24 hour access to both the indoor and outdoor areas.  Water in the outside pool is completely circulated every 75 minutes and is chilled to between 13 and 15 degrees Celsius (55 to 65 Farenheit).  There is also an air conditioned cave.

The polar bears and seals are occasionally swapped between living spaces to provide stimulus.  There are holes in the floor of the enclosure where it is above the seals cave-pool to enable the bears to smell the seals.  A freshwater stream flows through the on-exhibit area and this is sometimes stocked with live fish to allow the bears to hunt.  The outside enclosure is designed to replicate the Arctic Tundra and coast, and includes a number of appropriate plants.

Enrichment is provided at various and varying times throughout each day.

Sources: ZooLex (a service of  the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums). Bear Conservation research.

For more information click here to go to the ZooLex page for this facility (opens in a new window).


  1.   Captive breeding programme
  2.   ZooLex indicates 351 square metres of dry land access. Elsewhere a figure of 560 square metres has been quoted which seems more likely as this second figure meets the Manitoba Standard of a minimum of 500 square metres.  However, this still falls far short of our own recommendation for polar bear sanctuaries of at least 8,000 square metres (2 acres) per animal.

 We do not have details of the feeding, exercise, medical and enrichment regimes at Toledo Zoo.

The video below was published by the Zoo on 21 May 2019 and shows Borealis with his mother Crystal.

Return to Captive Polar Bear Directory

Page updated  06 April 2022