ZooMontana staff and volunteers bid an emotional farewell to an iconic resident on Thursday, October 19, 2023, as Bruno the grizzly bear was humanely euthanized after several health battles became too severe to manage.
ZooMontana said in a news release that the 23-year-old bear’s health issues were linked to the lack of care he received as a young bear, when he was illegally held in a private, Tennessee backyard within a small dog kennel.
Bruno, known for his droopy lip, teddy bear ears and large stature, was a staple at ZooMontana for 15 years. He arrived at the Zoo in 2008 from Zoo Knoxville, who agreed to bring Bruno in after he was discovered being illegally held.
ZooMontana Curator Travis Goebel and Lead North America Caregiver Krystal Whetham have both been with Bruno during his life at ZooMontana.
“Due to his inadequate nutrition and care as a young bear, we were pretty certain he wouldn’t see a typical Zoo bear lifespan of 30+, however, we are thrilled that we got the 15 years we did with him. Our caregivers and veterinarians have done a great job providing him exceptional care over that time, said Goebel in the news release. “Not only was he an incredible ambassador for his species, but he is truly loved by the community.”
Animal caregivers are keeping an extra-close eye on ZooMontana’s other grizzly bear, Ozzy - Bruno’s roommate and pal - as he adjusts to Bruno being gone. To help him with the loss, caregivers will shower Ozzy with time and enrichment.
In addition, administrators at the Zoo agreed to welcome in two orphaned grizzly cubs from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
ZooMontana director Jeff Ewelt explained, “Typically, we would wait to bring new animals in so soon after a loss of this magnitude. However, we felt it was in the best interest of Ozzy to bring these cubs in. He seems to really enjoy companionship, something we know these cubs can provide him”.
The cubs are slated to arrive at the Zoo within the month but will not be viewable until after a lengthy and mandatory quarantine. They are currently being cared for by the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.