Saturday, September 25, 2021

Adieu to Snow Lilly


Snow Lilly in her element.

Snow Lilly's many friends and fans are in mourning the loss of this very special older bear. She was known for her basketball skills, juggling a bright ball above water, and dribbling a ball on the floor of her pool. She was quite  advanced in years, the oldest polar bear in North America, second in age only to Katjuscha of the Berlin Zoo by just a few weeks, but she had kept up her activities, and seemed to be living her best life, right up to the end.  

Snow Lily goes for the win.

Snow Lilly has finished her last ball game. She died on Friday, September 24. 

Snow Lilly

Snow Lilly was born December 5, 1984 in the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, to Penny and Nicklee. She lived in the New York Bronx Zoo from 1985 to 2005. Her older sister Coldilocks died in 2019 at the age of 37.

Snow Lilly watching the sea lions get their fish. She wanted some too.

Her mate was the late Blizzard, brother of the late Little One of the Cincinnati Zoo. In 1991 Snow Lilly gave birth to a boy cub, Tundra, in the Bronx Zoo. Tundra died in 2017, after living his whole life in the Bronx Zoo.

Lots of ball action when Snow Lilly was around.

Snow Lilly moved from New York to the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2005, where she lived with Zero, who had been born there in 1989, and then with rescued circus bear Wilhelm. I visited in 2013, and first saw Snow Lilly on her own during the morning.  She went in, and Wilhelm appeared for the afternoon shift. Snow Lilly wanted to have her own space, so the bears took turns.

Snow Lilly

Snow Lilly was a bear who knew how to have fun, especially with a ball. Her keepers gave her lavish birthday parties with special treats, her favorite was crab legs, and she delighted in opening her presents. 

Snow Lilly at her 36th birthday party, opening gifts.
 Photo courtesy of Michelle Rippey

Snow Lilly loved her balls.

Snow Lilly had many fans, and will be greatly missed. There are now no polar bears in the Milwaukee County Zoo. The end of an era. 

Snow Lilly surveying her kingdom back in 2013.

Farewell, lovely lady.


  1. Dear Molly,

    Thank you for this lovely memory article. I learnt to love Snow Lily through yours and Michelle's reports and photos. Now she beyond pain and sorrow but we're mourning the sweet polar bear lady.

    Hugs from a very sad Mervi

  2. Thank you for this moving and beautiful tribute to Snow Lily. She will be missed..It is sad also to see another zoo stop keeping Polar Bears.