Mailing Address:PO Box 1988, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

History of the Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Following a bad forest fire in 1959, injured animals began arriving at the makeshift zoo/hospital/rehabilitation area that is now known as the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. Over the next several years the facility grew and more animals came to call this place home. The history of the zoo is well-documented and is quite interesting. Things went along quite well, as the little zoo grew and more animals were rescued.

In June of 1988, a terrible event occurred. Three bald eagles were stolen from the zoo, and were later found massacred on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake. This disturbing act precipitated the formation of the Friends of the Moonridge Zoo (now called the Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo). Four concerned citizens, headed by Carol Dingley, went to investigate the security at the zoo, and they found it to be non-existent. The Zoo’s budget which was extremely tight did not have funds available for installing a security system. In early 1989, Carol Dingley, along with Melinda Hope, Phyllis Siegel, and Louise Dand started a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation to raise money for a new security system. Over the next few months, about 10 more people joined the group.

The little group not only raised the money to install a security system, but also began helping the zoo staff improve the facilities. They placed donation cans for the zoo at many local businesses, and held the first real fund-raising event, Zooccasion, at Bear Mountain Ski Resort in August of 1989.

The small group of Friends was also interested in learning more about the zoo and its’ inhabitants, and Joe Duret, the keeper at that time, was more than happy to educate them. Soon, they began to give guided tours to the visitors.

1989 There were 12 trained tour guides at the zoo
1990 Paul Hope (husband of Melinda) became the first president of the Friends of the Moonridge Zoo (known as FOMZ). During his term, both a membership program and an animal adoption program were started
1990 FOMZ funded the construction of improved enclosures for both the coyotes and the mountain lions
1992 The first Information Center was opened by FOMZ. It was little more than a table with a canopy top, but it was enough to help educate visitors and sell t-shirts and postcards
1993 Paddy Speyers became the second FOMZ president. A docent training program was established, and the first docent manual was put together by Melinda Hope
1993 FOMZ helped fund enclosures for the deer, gray foxes, coyotes, bald eagles, bobcats, and mountain lions
1993 FOMZ published their first newsletter, Paw Prints
1994 The “Wishing Well” was constructed adjacent to the Black Bear enclosure
1995 An upgrade to the Information Center was built by Paul Hope. He built a shed to house more merchandise, but the Information Center remained an outdoor table
1995/1996 The Friends coordinated a huge campaign to raise funds to house three Grizzly Bears at the zoo. Over $150,000 was raised, and the Grizzly family made the zoo their “Home for Life”. Mama Tutu, along with her cubs, Harley and Ayla, live there happily to this day
1996/1997 The Friends built Wildlife Education Center, which has multiple purposes. Visitors enter and exit the zoo through the center, our gift shop is there, as well as the curators administrative office
2004 A $20,000 grant from the Unisense Foundation was received by FOMZ to support their educational programs
2005 A grant for $500 was received from AZAD to fund a new video camera
2005 FOMZ purchased a new Toyota van for the zoo
2007 The annual Christmas card mailing brought in over $38, 599 in donations. The cards were hand addressed by volunteers
2008 A Redlands woman left $100,000 to the Friends of the Moonridge Zoo in her will
2008 FOMZ approved an expenditure of several thousand dollars to pay for an alarm system upgrade
2008 FOMZ bought emergency transport cages for use by the zoo
2010 The first annual “Blues for the Zoo” concert was organized by FOMZ
2010 The Friends voted to fund a new wolf enclosure for the growing pack
2010 FOMZ purchased a new PA system for the zoo
2012 The Friends coordinated a fund raiser for the zoo, which was hosted by Re/Max Realty and Bear Mountain Resort. Over $2500 was raised for the new zoo
2012 The Friends of the Moonridge Zoo (FOMZ) has a name change, we are now Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo (FOBBAZ)
2017 FOBBAZ continues to support “Build A New Zoo” through their fundraising efforts. It IS Happening!
2018 Bowling for the Zoo was held on June 3rd, and raised money to purchase “Squeeze Crates” in anticipation of The New Zoo completion in 2019.
2020 The Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo attended the Grand Opening of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo’s new location on November 5th, 2020.