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Updated Sep 3, 2012, 3:33 pm Originally posted Sep 3, 2012, 1:35 pm
Snow, the 17-year-old polar bear at the Reid Park Zoo, was found dead by her zoo keeper early Monday morning.
She was in her normal sleeping position and there were no signs of trauma, said zoo spokeswoman Vivian VanPeenen in a news release.
On average, female polar bears live 20-25 years, so Snow would not have been considered an elderly polar bear, VanPeenen said.
A full necropsy will be conducted by pathologists to determine a cause of death, but according to zoo veterinarian Alexis Moreno there may not be a single reason for Snow's demise.
“Although she’s had a number of health issues throughout her life, there were no immediate concerns - she was swimming and eating well yesterday. Her overall appearance and condition since arriving in February had improved dramatically,” Moreno said.
Initial necropsy results could be available as soon as Thursday, but final results will take several weeks, VanPeenen said.
It is normal for wild polar bears to live a solitary existence, so Reid Park Zoo had no plans to bring in more of the animals. The zoo wanted to focus on treating Snow, who came to the zoo in February from SeaWorld Orlando, for chronic skin allergies. The zoo has not yet discussed whether to obtain another polar bear in the wake of Snow's death, VanPeenen said in an interview Monday.
Decisions about which animals will be acquired are not made according to the specific needs of the zoo, but in cooperation with Association of Zoos and Aquarium's Species Survival Plan, said VanPeenen.
“I’m extremely proud of the care Snow received from our team,”stated Jim Schnormeier, the zoo’s general curator. “Although Snow had chronic health concerns, our staff did everything possible to provide her with a great quality of life. We have many geriatric animals in our care right now and we anticipate losses in the near future, but this loss was unexpected. She will be missed.”
Snow and her brother Klondike starred in the PBS documentary "Klondike and Snow: A Tale of Two Polar Bears." Staff at the Denver Zoo raised the cubs from birth by hand, after their mother failed to care for them.