Snow Lilly, oldest polar bear living in human care in North America, dies at 36

The oldest polar bear living in human care in North America died Friday at age 36, officials at the Milwaukee County Zoo said.

“It’s with a heavy heart we announce the passing of Snow Lilly. Due to declining health, she was humanely euthanized yesterday (9/24),” the zoo tweeted Saturday morning.

© WITI-TV Snow Lilly pictured as she celebrates her 34th birthday.

Snow Lilly pictured as she celebrates her 34th birthday. (WITI-TV/)

Snow Lilly, who came to the Milwaukee County Zoo from the Bronx Zoo in 2005, was a “visitor favorite,” and regarded as “one of the iconic animals in the population,” Zoo Director Amos Morris said in a statement, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“She will be sorely missed by both staff and visitors,” Amos added.

The 574-pound “fan favorite” was the only bear at the zoo that didn’t go into hibernation.

According to her keepers, Snow Lilly liked swimming in her pool in the summer, but in the colder months she preferred to spend time walking and laying on the land portion of her habitat.

It’s with a heavy heart we announce the passing of Snow Lilly. Due to declining health, she was humanely euthanized yesterday (9/24).

At 36, she was the oldest polar bear in human care in North America, showing the excellent care provided by her team 💚

— 🎃👻Boo at the Zoo: Drive Thru!🎃👻 (@MilwaukeeCoZoo) September 25, 2021

Polar bears are generally solitary animals in the wild, the zoo said. Accordingly, Snow Lilly preferred to have the exhibit to herself.

The median life expectancy for polar bears in human care is about 23 years, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The fact that Snow Lilly died at 36 shows “the excellent care provided by her team,” the zoo said.

Results of a necropsy — which will be performed as a way to collect data to help other polar bears living in human care — will be known in the upcoming months.

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