NC Zoo's beloved grizzly bear, Yepani, passes away after 25 years

ASHEBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina Zoo grizzly bear popular with staff and visitors for more than 25 years died Wednesday.

Yepani was known for his gentle and patient personality. He was the first grizzly bear to call the zoo in Asheboro home. Yepani lived to be around 28 years old, according to a release from the zoo.

Doctors said Yepani was having a hard time with intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) last week. Zoo staff made the decision to humanely euthanize Yepani on Wednesday morning.

He came to the NC Zoo in 1994 from the Woodland Park Zoo in Oregon. Yepani was originally a "nuisance bear" from Yellowstone National Park, where he would steal coolers and backpacks from campsites to get food.

Yepani means 'Autumn' in the Native American Shoshone dialect. Zoo staff called him "Little Bear," "Teacup Bear" and "Rollie Pollie" because of his smaller size. Yepani liked to roll around in mulch.

"I count myself privileged to have been part of his life, and I of his, for the last 25 years," said Animal Management Supervisor Chris Lasher.
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