Before 7 million (human) residents roamed its streets, the Bay Area was home to grizzly bears, bald eagles, and mountain lions. Now, with the opening of the California Trail, visitors to the Oakland Zoo can see the area’s original residents in their natural habitats.
The massive exhibit, which opened to the public on July 12, more than doubled the zoo’s size (from 45 to 100 acres), providing California’s wildlife with plenty of room to roam. “The planning for the trail started in the 1990s,” explains Erin Harrison, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Oakland Zoo. “It’s been more than two and a half decades in the making.”
To access the trail, guests first enjoy an open-air gondola ride to the Kaiser Permanente Visitor Center, complete with a six-county view. Once on the raised trail, visitors will experience the majesty of California’s native species, including gray wolves, jaguars, black bears, mountain lions, California condors, buffalo, eagles, and grizzlies.
“Grizzly bears are the centerpiece,” says Harrison. “They were here before us and on our flag, but they may never return.” Conservation is integral to the trail’s mission. In a few short weeks, the zoo has created a home for baby mountain lions as well as a family of bears too normalized to humans to live in the wild. Oakland’s veterinarians, meanwhile, have treated condors poisoned by lead bullets before releasing the birds. The zoo has also welcomed the birth of 10 buffalo calves.