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Denver Zoo grizzly bear dies due to health issues

The 17-year-old bear had recently moved to his new habitat, Harmony Hill.
Credit: Jeremy Moore

DENVER — The Denver Zoo's 17-year-old male grizzly bear Kootenai died yesterday following a long struggle with arthritis and other health issues.

Kootenai had started showing signs that his quality of life was declining, such as not eating or voluntarily taking his medication.

"Our animal care and health teams treated his ailments tirelessly for many years until his condition advanced to a point where medical therapy was no longer enough to keep him comfortable," the Denver Zoo said in a statement.

Kootenai recently moved into the new Harmony Hill exhibit, which opened in May. He came to the zoo as a six-month-old cub in 2002 after U.S. Fish & Wildlife officers found him starving and abandoned in Montana.

RELATED: Denver Zoo's new 'immersive' grizzly bear exhibit opens Wednesday

Tundra, the zoo's female grizzly bear, joined Kootenai about six months later. Her mother was euthanized because of coming into contact with humans.

Tundra remains at Harmony Hill.

"Kootenai was a “big, loveable lug of a bear, who will be dearly missed by everyone, especially those who were lucky enough to have taken care of him," according to the zoo's caretakers.

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Harmony Hill replaced the zoo's former polar bear exhibit and is meant to be an "immersive" exhibit that puts visitors in the shoes of hikers, campers and homeowners in two distinctly different areas: Harmony Hill State Park, which evokes recreating, camping, and hiking as you would when visiting a state or national park; and Harmony Hill Neighborhood, which mimics a typical Colorado residential backyard.

Kootenai was humanely euthanized, the zoo said.

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