Zoo's polar bear died of heart ailment

Reid Park facility says it won't replace Snow with a new animal
2012-09-25T00:00:00Z 2014-09-05T15:31:03Z Zoo's polar bear died of heart ailmentKim Smith Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 25, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Snow, the 17-year-old polar bear who died Labor Day at the Reid Park Zoo, suffered from an undiagnosed heart ailment, a zoo official announced last week at the same time she announced the zoo doesn't plan to replace the Arctic animal.

Snow was found dead at 7 a.m. Sept. 3 in her normal sleeping position and location. Although she suffered from several health issues, zoo officials were surprised by her death, given that polar bears raised in captivity typically live between 20 and 25 years.

A necropsy showed Snow had an enlarged and scarred heart, said Vivian VanPeenen, curator of education.

It's believed Snow suffered cardiac arrest brought on by arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat, VanPeenen said.

The autopsy showed Snow likely had the condition for several years, but because she had no symptoms, it went untreated.

"It wouldn't have mattered if she were here, there or somewhere else, given that she was asymptomatic," VanPeenen said.

Because polar bears are not plentiful, VanPeenen said zoo officials have decided not to replace Snow.

Snow's enclosure and several pockets of land not currently in use are being studied as officials try to develop a master plan for the zoo, VanPeenen said.

The enclosure could stay the same or be modified.

"We're trying to determine the best use of space" for Snow's enclosure, VanPeenen said.

Officials hope to have the master plan completed by January.

Snow and her twin brother, Klondike, were born at the Denver Zoo but were transferred to SeaWorld Orlando at the age of 1.

While at SeaWorld, the pair were kept in separate quarters, which were entirely indoors.

Being indoors exacerbated Snow's skin allergies, causing her to develop a patch pelt, and SeaWorld Orlando to keep her hidden.

Reid Park Zoo officials were pleased that within a month of Snow's arrival in February, doctors were able to cut her medication in half.

Snow, who also suffered from the bone-weakening ailment rickets, spent her last months swimming in three pools and rolling around in the grass.

Zoo officials are happy they did all they could to improve Snow's quality of life, VanPeenen said.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or

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