Bear Dies at Lake Superior Zoo

Phoebe the Kodiak Bear Dies at Zoo

Lake Superior Zoo officials Tuesday euthanized Phoebe, the zoo’s 28-year-old Kodiak bear, after she had trouble rising for the past 72 hours and had not been eating.

“Phoebe had been on medication and supplements for arthritis for seven months and was increasingly having difficulty moving,” said Dr. Louise Beyea, the zoo’s veterinarian. “The staff was concerned about being able to maintain her quality of life at an acceptable level. It is impossible to medicate a bear that’s not eating.”

Zookeepers also worried that Phoebe, in her advanced age and current state of health, would not have been able to defend herself against Trouble, the younger grizzly bear that shared her exhibit, if the two bears had become involved in a conflict, which occasionally happens with zoo animals, as it does in the wild.

“Her health had deteriorated to a point that she wouldn’t have been sufficiently agile to avoid serious injury if there had been a conflict,” Beyea said.

The bear’s body was taken to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus for necropsy, an animal autopsy.

Phoebe was born at the Pittsburgh Zoo and was donated to the Lake Superior Zoo.

She arrived in Duluth in 1988 when she was 15 months old.

She typically did not seek the limelight during her time at the zoo.

“She was always in the background,” said Lindsay Eades, one of the carnivore keepers who was responsible for the bear’s care for the past eight years. “Trouble always took center stage.”

Kodiak bears are the largest bears in the world.

They are a unique subspecies of grizzly bear and have lived exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago for the past 12,000 years.

There are approximately 3,500 Kodiak bears living in Alaska.

The oldest known female lived to be 34 years old.

It is unclear whether the zoo will replace Phoebe, zoo CEO Dawn Mackety said.

“We’re sad to lose Phoebe,” Mackety said. “We’ll be discussing our options as we consult with our staff, the City of Duluth and other zoo experts from around the country.” 

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