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Jed Boal ReportingAn important era in the animal world is over at Utah's Hogle Zoo because of the apparent stupidity of a human visitor. The zoo's only polar bear died yesterday, leaving the staff saddened and shocked by the circumstances.
It's not just a loss for the zoo; it's a loss for the community, for the visitors and families that enjoyed the polar bears for years. All because someone tossed a glove into the exhibit.
Polar bears are crowd pleasers. They draw fans and put on a show, especially the cubs. That show is over at Hogle Zoo. 14-year-old Andy died yesterday in his prime.
Stacey Phillips, Utah's Hogle Zoo: “He was such a wonderful and vivacious animal. He used to jump in his pool and play with the zoo toys."
Andy wasn't well Tuesday and did not eat, but the zoo veterinarian did not think they'd find him dead Wednesday. An animal autopsy showed Andy had eaten an adult-sized fleece glove. It lodged in the intestine and ruptured it.
The vet thinks the glove was thrown because that would trigger a natural feeding response from the bear.
"Dr. Nancy Carpenter, Utah's Hogle Zoo Veterinarian: “Things have fallen in his enclosure before, and as long as they're sitting there he doesn't mess with them. So we really think the glove was thrown in."
They also think the glove was a visitor's because it does not match gloves issued to workers.
Myron Levane brings his family to the zoo each Thanksgiving and heads to see the polar bear first.
Myron Levane, Zoo Visitor: “We'll miss him, everybody will miss him. It's been one of the main things; people love to stand and watch him."
Andy's mate, Chinook, died a year ago. Andy sired five of Chinook's 10 cubs since he arrived at the zoo in 1995.
Sadly, people often throw junk into the exhibits as can be seen in the zoo's Museum of human stupidity.
The zoo does not know when it will replace the polar bear; it takes money. But the zoo says polar bears have been an important part of the zoo's past and will be a part of the future.