NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The Buttonwood Park Zoo is mourning the loss of one of its most iconic animals.
Toby, the New Bedford zoo’s 23-year-old black bear, passed away after battling a variety of age-related illnesses.
Veterinary staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Toby after his quality of life began to decline due to “sporadic loss of the use of his hind legs.”
“Letting go of our animal residents is always challenging, particularly with those so beloved by our team and community,” Buttonwood Park Zoo Director Gary Lunsford said. “Our hearts go out to those who provided his care over his many years.”
Toby was the last of the three black bears that first arrived at the zoo in 2000 from Clark’s Trading Post in New Hampshire. His fellow black bears, Amy and Ursula, passed away in 2020 due to age-related illnesses.
The zoo described Toby as “a gentle giant who loved all food – except broccoli and zucchini – and one who loved to be the center of attention.”
“He was a big ham – he always made us laugh at how he would lounge in the sun in the funniest positions or steal all the hay overnight to make himself a king-sized bed,” senior zookeeper Kristy Kaeterle said. “He was such a handsome guy. He was adored by all and he will be sorely missed.”
While the zoo acknowledges that there is no replacing Toby, Amy or Ursula, it hopes to continue caring for black bears in the coming years.
“We will take a little time to make some upgrades to the habitat before moving forward,” Lunsford said.