Knoxville Zoo Saddened By Death of Black Bear

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Knoxville Zoo Saddened By Death of Black Bear

Posted: 12/11/2013
Otis the BearKnoxville Zoo unexpectedly said good-bye to "Otis", a 15-year-old North American black bear, on Friday, December 6. Initial findings indicate the cause of death to be acute onset pneumonia.

Otis was orphaned along with another juvenile bear, Milo, near Ketchikan, Alaska, in 1999. When it was determined that they could not be released back into their native habitat, the two males were brought to Fort Worth Zoo in Texas to be raised together. In 2001, both came to Knoxville Zoo to live in the newly constructed Black Bear Falls habitat.

A necropsy to determine the cause of death was conducted at The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Although conclusive test results will not be available for a few weeks, the initial cause of death appears to be acute onset pneumonia.

His Black Bear Falls companions, Milo and female Ursula, seem to be aware of his absence but are very well-bonded and are adjusting to the loss, according to Melissa McGee, lead black bear keeper. Otis was a favorite among zoo staff and visitors alike. "He was a very honest bear," said keeper Susan Petrunio. "What you saw is what you got."

ZOOKnoxville Zoo is Knoxville's largest year-round attraction. Located off exit 392 from Interstate 40, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Currently, the zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Next-day admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865-637-5331 ext. 300 or visit