Jacksonville Zoo Mourns Loss of Beloved Black Bear

Featured Photo / Jacksonville Zoo

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (JZG) family sadly announced the passing of Billy, their beloved Black bear. Zoo veterinary staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Billy when an aggressive and advanced intestinal mass was discovered during an exploratory surgery.

Billy’s decreased appetite and activity was noticed by keepers and behavioral observation volunteers in late April. A health exam was then performed to evaluate his condition. An ultrasound revealed a large mass in his abdomen. During an exploratory surgery with a consulting surgeon, an invasive, potentially neoplastic tumor was detected. Due to the poor prognosis associated with these findings, the decision was made to euthanize him.

Billy was 22 years old and lived at the Zoo since he arrived with his mother in 2000. Billy was very popular with guests and staff alike and actively participated in an extensive training and conditioning program for medical and husbandry procedures. His keepers remember him fondly as an easy-going bear. He picked up new behaviors with ease and was quick to respond to his caregivers for a treat of crickets or frozen grapes.

As an American Black Bear, Billy was significantly larger than the smaller subspecies of black bears found in Florida. Billy used his size and power to his advantage by recently serving as the official tester of a bear-proof latch for Toter and other large garbage bins. This testing is aiding in the reduction of human-bear conflict. If Billy couldn’t get in it, it was definitely safe from native wild bears.


Jacksonville Zoo

Billy was a favorite JZG resident of both staff and guests alike. It is never easy to lose an animal, but knowing Billy lived a long and fulfilled life in our care brings some comfort,” said Tracy Fenn, Supervisor of Mammals.

The average lifespan for a black bear in the wild is 18 years, but it is possible to reach 23 years. The oldest recorded wild black bear lived 39 years. The oldest living black bear in human care reached 44 years.

JZG is significantly expanding the bear habitat, enlarging and improving holding areas, providing a bigger pool and enabling the bear and panther enclosures to accommodate either species so animals can temporarily swap spaces, for extra stimulation and enrichment. These renovations are underway in time for the arrival of another zoo or rescued bear needing relocation to a care facility.

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