Bringing back a bygone era: "Ohio: After The Ice" at the Toledo Zoo

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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - 13,000 years ago, what would eventually become Toledo was covered by ice a mile thick. Since the last Ice Age, the Erie Basin has been fraught with ecological chaos -- chaos being recreated on a much shorter time scale at the Toledo Zoo.

"As you experience this room, we have the extinct animals depicted by models, but next to them are taxidermied/mounted animals that would've occurred at the time," says chief mission officer Kent Bekker.

Graphite Design & Build, a local company of artists, has been hard at work for nearly 4 years bringing back a bygone era in "Ohio: After The Ice". The new main room of the ProMedica Museum of Natural History features flora and fauna, both real and lifelike, to create a narrative stretching from the age of mammoths and mastodons to the present day.

"These animals are being depicted in dioramas that represent the era," Bekker says, "so you'll see some of these animals are on top of glacial grooves, because the glaciers were receding during this period, while others are on plants of their era."

With opening day fast approaching, the finishing touches are being applied both to the creatures and their environments. We weren't allowed to show off the mastodon or mammoth quite yet, opting for the literally big reveal at the end of the month.

Bekker says one of the difficulties has been finding a consensus on the appearance of extinct animals, often having to use their next closest living relative as a reference point.

"A lot of this is speculation as to what some of these species may have been colored like, what their fur would've looked like, but I think we've done a very realistic representation of these species."

Their hope is that the attention to detail and technical care put into bringing these behemoths to life, helps guests give "Ohio: After the Ice" a warm reception.

The ProMedica Museum of Natural History opens Friday, May 31st.