July 16, 2019

Denver Zoo Loses Grizzly Bear, Kootenai

We are deeply saddened to share that Kootenai, our 17-year-old male grizzly bear, was humanely euthanized yesterday following a struggle with significant arthritis and other health issues. Our animal care and health teams treated his ailments tirelessly for many years until his condition advanced to a point where medical therapy was no longer enough to keep him comfortable. He also started showing signs of other declines in his quality of life, including not eating or voluntarily taking medication, and difficulty walking.

Kootenai quickly became a staff and guest favorite when he arrived at Denver Zoo as a 6-month-old cub in 2002 after he was found starving and abandoned in Montana by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. He was hand-reared in our hospital nursery until he reached 50 pounds, then was placed in Bear Mountain. Within six months, he was joined by Tundra, who needed a home after her mother was euthanized because of coming into conflict with humans. Tundra and Kootenai were companions for more than 16 years, and recently moved to their new habitat, Harmony Hill.

According to his caretakers, Kootenai was a “big, loveable lug of a bear, who will be dearly missed by everyone, especially those who were lucky enough to have taken care of him.” Indeed, Kootenai was an incredible, special animal, and his death is a loss for staff, volunteers and guests. We encourage you to pay tribute to Kootenai by visiting Harmony Hill to learn more about his and Tundra’s rescue stories, and learn how to better coexist with bears and other wildlife.


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