25-year-old black bear Ranger, an ‘ambassador for his species’ at L.A. Zoo, dies

A black bear rests his head on his front paws
Ranger, an American black bear at the Los Angeles Zoo, is shown in 2018. He was an orphaned cub when he was taken in by a family in Minnesota in 1997, surrendered to wildlife officials and sent to the zoo, where he lived his entire life.
(Jamie Pham / Los Angeles Zoo)

A 25-year-old American black bear taken in as an orphaned cub by the Los Angeles Zoo has died, zoo officials said Thursday.

Ranger was euthanized Wednesday because of health issues that had hurt his quality of life, the zoo said in a statement.

“This is truly a deep loss for our zoo community,” Denise Verret, chief executive and zoo director, said in the release. “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 co-exist with one another.”


He “will be sorely missed,” Verret said.

Donations to honor TV star and animal-welfare advocate Betty White exceeded $70,000, the L.A. Zoo’s nonprofit partner, GLAZA, announced Tuesday.

Born in 1997, Ranger was first brought to the L.A. Zoo as a wild rescue out of Minnesota, zoo officials said. The bear was orphaned as a cub and taken in by a family who surrendered him to the Minnesota Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Soon after, he was delivered to Los Angeles, where he spent the rest of his life.

“While it is never an ideal situation to take animals out of their natural environment, this was the best-case scenario as Ranger had become accustomed to human interaction at a very young age, which would have inhibited his re-introduction to the wild,” the zoo said.

Plans for a $650-million makeover of the Los Angeles Zoo have angered environmentalists, who say it would destroy native woodlands.

Ranger was a major attraction at the zoo, officials said, with crowds gathering often around his habitat as he lounged in the sun. Officials called him “the best ambassador for his species” and said he helped create a connection between visitors and wildlife.

“The L.A. Zoo will not be the same without him,” Beth Schaefer, director of animal programs at the zoo, said in the release.

Ranger’s species is native to North America and can reach up to 7 feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds. Black bears can live 20 to 30 years in the wild, according to the National Wildlife Federation.