Buffalo Zoo Says Goodbye to Beloved Kodiak Bear Toby

February 21, 2012 Updated Feb 21, 2012 at 4:08 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Melissa King, The Buffalo Zoo

Buffalo Zoo Says Goodbye to Beloved Kodiak Bear Toby

February 21, 2012 Updated Feb 21, 2012 at 4:08 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Buffalo Zoo is sad to report that Toby, a 22-year-old Kodiak bear, was euthanized on Sunday morning.

According to a Tuesday news release from the Buffalo Zoo,Toby was being treated with anti-inflammatory medications for age-related degenerative joint disease characterized by progressive osteoarthritis.

Last year, he was taken off the multi-level terrain of his public exhibit and moved to an off exhibit area to keep him more comfortable on an even surface with a pool to provide relief for his joints. As his condition worsened, the difficult decision to euthanize him was made.

The largest subspecies of brown bear, the Kodiak bear is found on islands of the Kodiak Archipelago in southwestern Alaska. Currently, the Kodiak bear population is stable. However, with increasing human populations brown bear habitats are often adversely affected in many areas. (Grizzly bears, for example--another subspecies of the brown bear family--are listed as a threatened species in the United States.)

Estimated to have been born in 1990, Toby was placed at the Olympic Game Farm in Washington State. He was later transferred to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in Montana in August 1993 where he was housed with Fred, a grizzly bear.

Toby and Fred both came to the Buffalo Zoo in 2002 so that the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center would have room to house four “nuisance” bears including a mother and cubs. Brown bears that reside at accredited zoos are considered to be a rescue population. If they breed in captivity, this prevents orphaned or nuisance brown bears from being rescued in the wild since there would be no space for them in zoos.

While bears are typically solitary in nature, Toby and Fred had become used to being around one another. At the Buffalo Zoo, Toby and Fred resided in the same exhibit and delighted visitors, who loved watching them play together in their pool. Fred was euthanized in 2010 after age-related neurological changes resulted in paralysis.

Although not part of the Buffalo Zoo’s long-term collection plan, the Kodiak and grizzly bears helped educate the public about their species by serving as conservation ambassadors. The Buffalo Zoo also exhibits polar bears and Andean (spectacled) bears.

When the Zoo’s master plan was revised in 2004, the Zoo made the decision not to acquire any younger bears until a new state-of-the art polar bear facility, currently in design, is completed. The only exception made to this decision was allowing three young grizzly bears to temporarily reside at the Zoo while Utah’s Hogle Zoo completes its new bear exhibit. The young bears will be transferred to the Hogle Zoo in Spring 2012.

The Buffalo Zoo’s remaining bears are all at the end of their lifespan (generally 20-25 years) with the exception of Anana, the Zoo’s 11-year-old female polar bear, who will be the centerpiece of the new exhibit. Anana’s mate, Nanuq, who is 24 years old, was acquired on breeding loan from Madison, Wisconsin in 2009.

Four Andean (also called spectacled) bears also reside at the Buffalo Zoo: Mischief, age 16; Bernard, age 21; Fernando, age 25; and Diana, age 33. Diana ranks as the oldest of her species in a North American zoo and has developed some age-associated changes, including arthritis and some hair loss.

“While the majority of our bears are certainly showing signs of age-related issues, the Buffalo Zoo remains committed to providing high quality care for them for the duration of their lives,” said Dr. Donna M. Fernandes, President/CEO of the Buffalo Zoo. “All of our bears are beloved by our staff and visitors. Toby, especially, will always have a special place in our hearts and will be greatly missed.”