A 25-year-old black bear at the Los Angeles Zoo was euthanized after suffering from declining health, the zoo announced Thursday.
Ranger arrived at the zoo in 1997 and helped visitors better understand black bears that roam California and sometimes enter foothill communities.
"This is truly a deep loss for our zoo community,'' said Los Angeles Zoo Director and CEO Denise M. Verret. ``Since his arrival at our zoo, Ranger's presence helped connect millions of Angelenos to the type of wildlife that exists around us, which is crucial to building empathy, so we may peacefully coexist with one another.
"Ranger's impact on our zoo and Los Angeles will never be forgotten, and he will be sorely missed.''
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Ranger was brought to the zoo in 1997 after being rescued as an orphaned cub in Minnesota, according to the zoo. A family initially took him in before surrendering him to Minnesota's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The zoo said Ranger couldn't be re-introduced to the wild because he had grown accustomed to human interaction.
The zoo's director of animal programs, Beth Schaefer, said that Ranger "touched the lives'' of everyone who worked with him.
"Part of the reason why zoos exist is to help create a strong connection to the wildlife that lives around us, and Ranger was the best ambassador for his species in that way,'' Schaefer said. "When you would walk around Tiger Plaza, it was impossible to not see groups of people of all ages stopping to observe Ranger basking in the warm sun, eating berries or just lounging in his habitat. The L.A. Zoo will not be the same without him.''
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About Black Bears in California
Black bears, which can have different color coats, like to feed on plants, insects, nuts, berries and whatever else they think of as edible -- such as the contents of trash bins. If food is scarce in their natural habitat, bears are likely to forage elsewhere, bringing them into Southern California foothill neighborhoods.
California's black bear population has been on the rise over the last two decades, growing from an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 in the early 1980s to between 25,000 and 30,000 -- and that's a conservative estimate, according to the state department of fish and wildlife.
Black bears, recognized by their small, narrow heads and small ears, have coats that range in color from tan or brown to black. Females grow up to about 200 pounds and males can be a hefty 350 pounds with some giants weighing in at more than 600 pounds.
About half of the state's bear population can be found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and areas to the north and west. Only an estimated 10 percent of the black bear population inhabits central western and southwestern California.
Although its on the state flag, the fearsome grizzly bear no longer can be found in the California wild. The last grizzly bear observed in California was shot in the early 1920s.