The Reid Park Zoo is transforming an existing exhibit to be a bit more bearable for some future additions.

The Arctic-inspired exhibit, vacant since Snow, the zoo's 17-year-old polar bear, died last September, will soon be fit for a brown bear, or two or three.

The zoo is working with wildlife officials in Alaska who help rescue orphaned bears or bears that can't be reintroduced into the wild, said zoo spokeswoman Vivian VanPeenen.

"Every year they have bears that come into contact with humans or get themselves in trouble or accidentally shot. A variety of different things happen," VanPeenen said. "Every year they have more what they call "trouble bears" than places to put them."

The zoo doesn't know the number or ages of bears it will receive when the exhibit is ready, but it can accommodate up to three, VanPeenen said. "It's sort of like adopting a baby - you're so anxious to hear," she said.

A wall that divided the former polar bear exhibit into halves is being knocked down to create more room for the bears, and crews are making the deep pool into a streamlike, shallow play area for the brown bears.

Work on the exhibit is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

The construction is funded by grant money, but the zoo is hoping to raise additional funds to install interactive educational exhibits for children, VanPeenen said.

The zoo, along with Craft Tucson, a group of local craft beer brewers, is hosting a beer-tasting event this weekend to help raise money for the exhibits.

other exhibits

In other work at the zoo, the exhibit that was once the home to CJ, a 21-year-old mandrill who died last year, is also under construction and will feature a breeding pair of black-and-white ruffed lemurs.

Work is also being done on the lion-tailed macaque habitat, so for now the trio of monkeys are not on public display, VanPeenen said.

Because of the construction, the zoo is offering free admission for one child with a paying adult each day until work on one of the three exhibits is complete, VanPeenen said.

If you go

• What: Brew at the Zoo, a craft beer sampling event with live music.

• Where: Reid Park Zoo, 3400 Zoo Court.

• When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

• Tickets: $40 in advance; $50 day of event. Discounts available. Proceeds benefit the renovation of the new brown bear exhibit.

• Ages: 21+

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at or at 573-4224.