polar bear payton

Polar Bear Payton Dies Mid Zoo Transfer

North Carolina Zoo is mounting the loss of their beloved polar bear Payton. On 25th of October, the zoo team was transporting the male bear to Louisville Zoo, Kentucky. The bear was part of a breeding partnership and has previously been unsuccessful in other zoos.

While on route, the North Carolina Zoo team performed routine checks on the bear. On their second check, short of two hours, the bear was unresponsive. The team immediately took Payton to a nearby big animal veterinary center, where he was pronounced dead. The polar bear was taken back to North Carolina zoo for an necropsy.

Dr. Jb Minter, the North Carolina Zoo’s director of animal health said, “The necropsy indicated some evidence of cardiac disease, a tumor on his adrenal gland as well as some moderate osteoarthritis in keeping with his advanced age.” She also stated that tissue samples will be sent to other laboratories for further investigation into the bear’s death.

One of the bear care keepers, Melissa Vindigni said, “He loved training and interacting with his keepers and vet techs and his trust in us really shined with his willingness to work with us on his own health care. I learned so much from him and I was blessed to work with him. I will never forget the things he taught me.” 

The Louisville Zoo responded to the death of polar bear Payton by saying, “The Louisville Zoo sends our deepest condolences to our colleagues at the North Carolina Zoo on the loss of their polar bear, Payton. We share in their sorrow in the passing of this beloved animal.”

Polar Bear Payton

Payton, the polar bear, was born on November 8, 2003 in Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Illinois. He was named after a Chicago NFL player Walter Payton. The 1,000 lb bear was previously in Memphis Zoo before being transferred to North Carolina Zoo in 2021. A year later, while in the North Carolina zoo, one of the zoo keepers said that the bear, “easily gets excited about things. He has big ears, and they perk up when he’s excited, and his head starts bobbing up and down.” He also loved to play with large garbage cans and would crush them. The bear caretakers also noted that Payton has a keen sense of smell. His nose was always working, even more so than their previous polar bears.

Payton the polar bear enjoyed a 147,000 gallon pool at the zoo and had a mate, Anana. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful in producing a cub.

There are an estimated 22,000-31,000 polar bears left in the wild. Average lifespan is 20-30 years but only a small percentage make it to that age. Most polar bear die before they are 20. In captivity, polar bears can live past 30 years. The oldest polar bear was Debby, who lived in Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada. She died at the age od 41.

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