In May 2012, the Moonridge Animal Park had a name change. The new name is the Big Bear Alpine Zoo.
A Story of Survival and Harmony Between People and Nature Big Bear Alpine Zoo arose from the ashes of forest fires in 1959 that devastated the natural ecosystem of the San Bernardino Mountains. Several injured animals were brought to safety for rehabilitation and a second chance at life in the wild. But for some, returning to the forest was not an option due to human imprinting or injuries that would compromise their survival. For those healthy but non-releasable birds and animals, a 2.5-acre parcel located 7,125 feet above sea level in the same indigenous, sub-alpine conifer forest became their protective new home and the site of Big Bear Alpine Zoo.
An orphaned, 30-pound black bear cub, stranded in a tree after the fire, was among the first, permanent inhabitants at the zoo. Other early arrivals to the Southern California facility included mule deer and bobcats.
In 1960, a 50-year lease on the property enabled Big Bear Alpine Zoo to grow into a zoological facility. In 1961, the zoo became part of the San Bernardino County Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District. Today, Big Bear Alpine Zoo is home to more than 150 birds and animals representing 85 species. Notably, Big Bear Alpine Zoo is distinguished as the only zoological facility in the United States located in an alpine/sub-alpine environment, dedicated to the preservation of primarily alpine and sub-alpine species.
Educational wildlife programs have grown right along with the resident animal population. The Big Bear Alpine Zoo presents zoological information in an historical context, to demonstrate the impact of human social conditions on the well being of wildlife. This is done with the assistance of only non-releasable wildlife that serves as educational ambassadors. Each year, with the help of trained docents, Big Bear Alpine Zoo offers hundreds of educational programs for school children, youth organizations, families, and visitors from around the world.
The growth of the facility is testament to the need for alpine wildlife preservation. Neighboring urban areas have grown and encroached upon bird and animal habitats to the point that the surrounding Big Bear Valley is now classified as an urban forest. The San Bernardino Mountains have become one of the last bastions for future generations to glimpse alpine wildlife in natural ecosystems.
Primarily a zoological facility, the Big Bear Alpine Zoo also is a fully licensed, designated care and rehabilitation facility for injured or confiscated animals. Annually, at least 200 injured wild birds and animals are treated here. Over the years, thousands of injured, orphaned, or behaviorally handicapped wildlife have come to the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. The majority of animals rehabilitated at the zoo have been successfully released to the wild.