Oldest polar bear at Midland Zoo dies unexpectedly, cause unknown

Midland Zoo’s oldest polar bear was found dead at 7 a.m. this morning.

Homer was 16 years old and died in his exhibit where he lived with two other polar bears. The bears served as ambassadors for their species, raising visitors’ awareness of their threatened status.

Chris Bacon, the zoo’s director, said the exact cause of death is under investigation.

“We will do everything in our power to determine how this bear died,” Bacon said. “Animal welfare and the preservation of species are our primary goals here at the zoo.”

The zoo’s senior staff veterinarian, Dr. Shanda Lear, said that it will be several weeks until any more information will be available.

Midland Zoo has been a home for polar bears since 1985. The animals have thrived in the zoo’s natural exhibit that replicates their arctic habitat. The artificial environment allows the polar bears to practice the same natural behaviors as their wild relatives, such as playing in snow, digging in gravel, and hunting for trout.

Zookeeper Sara Getty, who discovered the floating body, worked closely with Homer and the other polar bears.

“Homer was a very curious and playful polar bear and we will miss him terribly,” said Getty.

Homer is the third animal death at the Midland Zoo in recent weeks. Previous loses this past month are a 10-year-old bobcat and a 6-year-old giraffe. The deaths are unrelated, zoo officials say.

Homer’s exhibit-mates, 9-year-old Yukon and 10-year-old McKenzie, have been relocated and are currently under observation by veterinary staff.

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