The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is sad to announce the passing of our beloved black bears, Huckleberry (Huck) and Zuni.

In the months leading up to their passing, Huck demonstrated increasing strain in his hips and joints from living on only three legs for almost his entire life as well as other age-related conditions that made day-to-day movement difficult for him. Due to complications from his disability, the zoo made the very difficult decision to humanely euthanize him in the presence of his favorite people after enjoying some of his favorite treats. At 21 years old, Huck lived a great life and outlived the typical 15- to 20-year lifespan for wild bears. Huck was a favorite for all our visitors and will be missed greatly.

Huck was born in January 2002. As a 5- to 6-month-old cub, Huck was struck by a car on Highway 38. He was 13 pounds when he was brought into the zoo. He should have been close to 50 pounds at that age. He had a severely broken front leg that had developed gangrene, and he was severely dehydrated. His front leg required amputation. He needed round-the-clock care. Veterinarians expected him to live only 10 years. Huck was a favorite of the zookeepers and guests. He has always been a very good eater, a fan of fruit and occasional fig newton training treats. He eventually grew to 450 pounds. He loved spending time in his pool and foraging for treats his keepers meticulously hid around his enclosure.

Zuni struggled with thyroid issues for many years and the team had seen a rapid decline in his health over the past few weeks. Veterinary staff examined him and discovered that he had several thyroid and age-related complications. After consultation with several veterinary specialists and keepers, the zoo made the difficult but humane decision to euthanize Zuni.

Zuni came to the zoo in 2000 when he was approximately 6- to 8-months old. He was found alone in Hinkley in a watermelon patch. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife rescued him, and we were lucky enough to provide him with a home. When he arrived, he was very thin and in poor health. He grew big and grew strong, and this sweet bear loved his home at the zoo as much as the zookeepers loved him.

Making the decision to euthanize a beloved animal is never easy. We are lucky to have observant staff and a skilled veterinary team to make decisions that are in the best interests of our animal guests. Huck and Zuni were ambassadors for their species. At the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, our animals are our family. They were given a second chance at life when they came to the zoo and outlived most of their wild counterparts. They will be greatly missed by staff and guests.

While we mourn the loss of our beautiful black bears Huck and Zuni, we can reflect on the nearly two decades we had with them. We will pay extra attention and give even more love to our other black bears, Holly, Pooh, and Eleanor, who we know are mourning along with us. Although tears are coming now, smiles will follow as we remember them fondly.

Additional County Update News – December 1, 2023

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