Bristol Bears rugby players came face to face with some real bears when they visited Wild Place Project.
They met the four European brown bears who live here in Bear Wood, our new multi-million pound exhibit.
Members of the Bristol Bears premiership squad spent some time in our seven and a half acre exhibit following the raised walkway which allows visitors to look down into the bears’ enclosure.
Bear Wood has been built within an existing woodland where brown bears would have roamed hundreds of years ago.
Flanker Steven Luatua from Bristol Bears said: “This really is the first time we have come up against real bears and they look fantastic. They are graceful and yet so powerful.
“It’s amazing to be able to stand so close to them.”
The players watched the bears climbing trees and play-fighting in a specially built pond.
Their visit also gave fans a great chance to meet the players who happily posed for selfies, signed autographs and talked about the forthcoming season in the Gallagher Premiership.
Nigel Simpson, head of operations at Wild Place Project, said: “We are delighted that the Bristol Bears wanted to come to see our bears.
“And like the thousands of other people who have been here they were thrilled at being able to see them in natural surroundings.”
Bear Wood opened two weeks ago and as well as bears is home to lynx and wolverine. A pack of five wolves who have lived at Wild Place Project for some years will soon be joining them. Eventually the wolves will be moved in to the same paddock as the bears.
Bear Wood takes visitors on a journey back in time to show them what the woods would have been like with native species like bears, wolverine, lynx, and wolves living there.
It explains why animals like these are no longer found in this country and how the vast majority of woods have been lost to farming and building over the centuries.
At Wild Place Project, you can take a glimpse into eco-systems from around the world, including Madagascar, Cameroon, the Congo, and now British ancient woodlands. It offers the chance to see animals including zebra, gelada baboons, meerkats, lemurs, okapi, red-river hogs and eland.
Part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas. The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is contributing towards the costs of fencing for the bear, wolf, wolverine and lynx enclosures.