It is the end of the polar bear era at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma Washington. With the death of 26 year old Blizzard, there are no polar bears, after 80 years of keeping the bears.
Blizzard had been diagnosed with liver cancer last year, and was being treated with chemotherapy, which gave him more time. But the tumor was aggressive, and ultimately, Blizzard lost his battle.
|Blizzard, always keeping busy.
Blizzard was born in the Canadian wilderness of Churchill in the fall of 1995, and along with another orphan, Glacier, he came from Calgary to Tacoma in March of 1997.
Already in Tacoma was a young girl cub named Nan, who had been born in the wilds of Alaska in the fall of 1994. So Blizzard grew up with Nan and Glacier as playmates.
|Blizzard and one of his toys.
|A smile from Blizzard.
Nan left for the Toledo Zoo in Ohio in mid-2001. Young Blizzard and Glacier welcomed two surprising roommates late in 2002. The US government had sent in agents to rescue six suffering polar bears in a Mexican Circus while the bears were being overwintered in Puerto Rico, which is part of the US so they had jurisdiction.
Two of the rescued circus bears came to live at Point Defiance Zoo. Kenneth and Boris were no doubt happy to be in this comfortable environment, with a pool, good food and room to roam, after years of poor diet, living in cages, suffering in the heat, and having to perform tricks for the circus.
The four bears lived happily together at the Point Defiance Zoo for many years. Kenneth died in 2012, and Glacier died in 2015. The last of the rescued circus bears, Boris, died in 2020.
|Blizzard on the left, with ball, old Boris the circus bear on the right.
|Blizzard, with a keeper in the background.
And now Blizzard is gone.
Blizzard was an amazing, clever bear, good at playing games and having fun. He enjoyed his visitors too, and entertained his fans with his antics. Blizzard really loved his toys and his keepers.
|Blizzard on the go.
I visited Blizzard and Boris in the fall of 2018, and marveled at how active Blizzard was. Boris was quite elderly at the time, so Blizzard was pretty much on his own, and was fairly cheerful, busy with his toys.
And he was active up until last week, when his health deteriorated quickly.
Blizzard (whose exact birthday we don't know) and Nan's current companion Neil of the Como Zoo had been the oldest male polar bears in the country at age 26.
With the loss of Blizzard, there are only 39 polar bears in zoos in all of the United States. Farewell, old guy. You will be missed.