R.I.P. Wilhem, the Milwaukee County Zoo Polar Bear

Oct. 22, 2013
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wilhem milwaukee county zoo polar bear

The Milwaukee County Zoo reported today that its male polar bear Wilhem has died. The veterinary staff euthanized him this morning after several days of illness; he had stopped eating and was no longer able to stand. The zoo will conduct an animal autopsy to determine the exact cause of his illness.

Born in captivity, Wilhem, or "Willie" as the staff called him, came to the Milwaukee County Zoo from the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, where he'd lived since 2002. His stay here was supposed to be temporary; he was to return to Asheboro after his exhibit there had completed a planned renovation.

Willie was 28, which is older than most polar bears live in the wild. The life expectancy for a wild polar bear is thought to be somewhere in the upper teens. In captivity, they can live into their early or mid 30s.

Willie is survived by the Milwaukee County Zoo’s female polar bear, Snow Lilly, who remains on exhibit.

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