17-year-old Kootenai initially came to the Denver Zoo as a cub in 2002.

The Denver Zoo recently released a statement on its Facebook page with some sad news for both zookeepers and visitors, alike.  

"We are deeply saddened to share that Kootenai, our 17-year-old male grizzly bear, was humanely euthanized yesterday following a struggle with significant arthritis and other health issues," related the zoo's Facebook page.

Despite constant care for the bear, zoo officials felt that Kootenai's health had deteriorated too far. According to the statement, his medical issues had progressed and he was struggling to walk, take medication, and eat.  

"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," said the zoo. 

Kootenai was brought to the Denver Zoo when he was merely six months old. He had been found by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Montana abandoned and starving. He quickly became a favorite of everyone, as he was hand-reared in the nursery until he reached 50 pounds. Kootenai then found his home at the Bear Mountain exhibit where he was joined by another orphan cub, Tundra. Tundra's mother was euthanized due to human-animal conflict. They lived together for 16 years, and recently were introduced into the new Harmony Hill habitat. 

Kootenai's caretakers say he will be deeply missed.

"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. Indeed, Kootenai was an incredible, special animal, and his death is a loss for staff, volunteers and guests," says the zoo. 

Guests are encouraged to pay tribute to Kootenai by visiting the Harmony Hill habitat to learn more about the species. The exhibit also has information to help you gain insight into co-existing with bears and other wildlife, helping to avoid orphaning cubs and putting wild animals in danger.

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