The Como Zoo's twin polar bears need a place to crash.
Neil and Buzz were supposed to be heading to Buffalo, N.Y., for a couple of years during an expansion of their digs in St. Paul. But the folks in Buffalo on Tuesday decided to turn them away because of the cost.
It would've taken between $30,000 and $60,000 to upgrade the Buffalo Zoo's polar bear exhibit to accommodate the brothers, who require special training space.
"It doesn't make sense to invest a lot of money in an exhibit slated for demolition in the next few years," said James W. Smyton, board chairman of the Zoological Society of Buffalo.
It's uncommon for male bears to stay with other male bears, said Como Zoo spokeswoman Michelle Furrer. "They've learned to live with each other."
If they can't get the same kind of daily training they get in St. Paul, they'd likely regress and not be able to be put in the same exhibit after being separated, she said.
There's no backup home yet, Furrer said.
Now it's up to polar bear experts to look at housing options, said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in Washington, D.C.
He said they'll consult the species survival plan -- there are plans for 161 species -- that looks at all polar bears in all AZA-accredited zoos and monitors such things as breeding and space. There are 86 polar bears in 34 accredited zoos.
"We'll be able to find a place to take them," Feldman said.
The 12-year-old bears, named for Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, are on permanent loan from the San Diego Zoo.
The Como folks were hoping to get Neil and Buzz on the road by March, and construction is still on schedule, Furrer said. The $14 million Polar Bear Odyssey expansion is expected to be completed in 2010.
Buffalo Zoo will get two endangered spectacled bears: a 19-year-old female from Binghamton, N.Y., and a 17-year-old male from Panama City, Fla.
Neil and Buzz will just have to chill out for a while.
Chris Havens • 651-298-1542