Black bear Milo dies at Zoo

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Milo. Photo submitted by Zoo Knoxville

For the second time in a week, Zoo Knoxville has lost one of its most popular residents.

Milo, a 22-year-old American black bear, was euthanized by his keepers on Thursday, Zoo officials said.

“Milo delighted our guests as an ambassador for one of our most iconic native species,” said Phil Colclough, Zoo Knoxville’s director of Animal Care, Conservation and Education. 

“Although Milo could not be released back into the wild, he helped tell the story of black bears in Appalachia and how we can coexist with and protect native wildlife,” he said. “Milo was a special bear and he will be missed by us all.”

His companions Ursula, Monty, and Finn, will receive extra love and attention while they adjust to his loss.

Last week, the Zoo lost Jimmy, a 15-year-old African lion that spent his entire life in East Tennessee. He, too, was euthanized due to age-related health problems.

Milo and his brother, Odie, were rescued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game when their mother died in 1999, according to Zoo officials. The siblings were cared for at the Fort Worth Zoo before coming to Zoo Knoxville in 2001, where they lived out the rest of their lives in the Black Bear Falls habitat. 

“Despite his advanced age, Milo only recently began exhibiting signs that he was struggling with painful arthritis, loss of appetite and other related health issues,” said a Zoo Knoxville spokesperson. 

“He was being closely monitored over the last few weeks by his caregivers and the veterinary team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine,” the spokesperson said. “Despite treatment with pain medications and appetite stimulants, his quality of life continued to decline and the decision was made to humanely euthanize him on Thursday when it became clear his condition was not improving.”

American black bears range throughout North America, from Canada to Mexico.  While in the past they occupied nearly all of the forested regions of North America, they are now restricted to areas less densely populated by humans, according to Zoo officials.  

Human/bear conflict, primarily due to wild black bears becoming habituated to human food sources, is one of the greatest threats to black bears.

Published on October 29, 2021.