ASHEBORO, N.C. (WECT) – The North Carolina Zoo at Asheboro announced Friday that Tommo, a grizzly bear who had been at the zoo for over two decades, has passed away.
“The 31-year-old bear’s quality of life quickly declined to the point that the zoo’s staff made the difficult decision to euthanize him this week,” officials stated in a news release.
Tommo arrived at the zoo in 1995 after he was identified as a “nuisance” bear in Yellowstone National Park and was relocated twice by the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. Nuisance bears are those that have lost their fear of humans and associate people as suppliers of food.
Though nuisance bears are typically euthanized due to the threat they pose to humans, Tommo was able to live a long and health life at the zoo.
Our hearts are broken as we mourn the loss of our grizzly bear, Tommo. He loved water & was known for taking a swim. “He was a perfect ambassador to show our guests how truly amazing grizzlies are.” Kelly, 13-year caretaker of Tommo’s❤️ Read more: https://t.co/wCtVn1K3Bc pic.twitter.com/LDzYQnVJor
— North Carolina Zoo (@NCZoo) July 9, 2021
“I had the privilege to work with Tommo for over 26 years,” said Chris Lasher, an animal management supervisor who was at the zoo when Tommo arrived. “He was an amazing, goofy and handsome bear. He never stopped surprising his caretakers with his intelligence and his ability to learn.”
The year Tommo arrived, the zoo had been caring for another nuisance bear, Yepani. Yepani, 28, died of natural causes in 2019 after living at the zoo since 1994.
“Tommo was such a great ambassador for grizzlies in the wild. His story highlights the continuing issues of bear-human conflict and our need to find ways to help,” said Pat Simmons, the zoo’s CEO and director. “Hopefully, his story inspires people to protect and respect the wilderness. It was our honor to know him and fortunate for us all that the zoo could provide a home for Tommo to live out his years.”
With the loss of Tommo, the grizzly bear habitat at the zoo will remain empty for now. Zoo officials will work with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to offer a home for any orphaned or nuisance bears in the future.
Male grizzlies in the wild live about 22 years and weigh 400-700 pounds (Tommo weighed 700 pounds). They can also reach speeds of 30 mph for short distances.
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