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Zoo Saddened at Loss of Long-time Grizzly Bear Resident

Friday, Dec 08, 2023

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (December 8, 2023) - Ann, the last grizzly resident at the Little Rock Zoo, died in her sleep from suspected heart failure early Thursday morning. The passing marks the end of an era for the Zoo and the end of a tale of two nuisance grizzly bears who lived out their lives in Little Rock.

A bulletin from the Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator of the Department of the Interior issued on October 4, 1992 asked if any accredited zoo facility could take two nuisance bears described as “exceptionally beautiful bears with golden fur and dark legs.” The two sister bears had raided 19 back country camps and attempted to enter several tents in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area in Montana. It was mentioned that the two bears “get along well with each other” and a special plea went out for zoos to house the bears. The Little Rock Zoo came to the rescue.

Several months later, Ann and Nona arrived in Arkansas and would make their new home at the Little Rock Zoo. Guests greeted Ann and Nona with a teddy bear parade and the two bears were a favorite for more than three decades. The “grizzly girls” would often be seen placing a paw up against the glass of their enclosure, as if they were reaching out to high-five, and would elicit laughs as they licked the walls. Splashing and playing in their pool was a crowd pleaser. Zoo staff affectionately remember Ann for her sweet personality. One staff member recalls her sleeping with a branch or other outdoor “snuggle log” in her den.

Nona, Ann’s sister, passed earlier this year after cancer of the jaw was discovered during a dental examination. Both Nona and Ann are estimated to be 33-years-old. The Little Rock Zoo does not have plans to acquire additional grizzly bears at this time.

Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Washington State contain the majority of the United States’ wild grizzly bears. There are less than 55,000 bears remaining in the wild with conservation efforts focusing on habitat protection and mitigating human-bear conflicts. The Little Rock Zoo hosts an annual Bear Awareness Week every year to raise awareness about the importance of wild bear conservation and how to take precautions when spending time outdoors to mitigate human-bear interaction. 


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