The North Carolina Zoo's popular polar bear, Patches, died on Sunday.
In recent weeks, Patches had become uninterested in food, and was lethargic, according to Ken Reininger, the zoo’s general curator. Tests revealed the female bear had an extensive lung mass which was likely cancer.
“In the wild the average life span of a polar bear is 15-to-18 years old,” said Dr. David Jones, director of the zoo. “Patches was 26-years-old. She exceeded wildlife expectations by living a long life.”
Patches was born at a zoo in Omaha, Neb. In November 2013, Patches was moved to the North Carolina Zoo, where she quickly became an iconic animal.
Earlier this year, on a snowy day in January, the keepers captured this video of Patches frolicking in the cold water.
The zoo had recently acquired a roommate for Patches. Anana, a 15-year-old polar bear arrived a few weeks ago. Once she’s comfortable in her new surroundings, the polar bear exhibit will be re-opened to visitors.
— Dave DeWitt (@DaveDeWitt) November 18, 2014
— North Carolina Zoo (@NCZoo) November 17, 2014