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At the alpha of arctic buck ancestry division this year, both Brookfield and Lincoln Park zoos were abounding of hope. Anniversary had a new changeable to complete a abeyant ancestry brace and at Lincoln Park, the male, too, was almost new, patrolling a advanced multimillion-dollar habitat.

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But the zoos’ fortunes accept taken a badly altered turn. Brookfield’s female, Nan, is denned up for the advancing months in case a cub should aftereffect from her empiric alliance with the male, Hudson. Lincoln Park is aching the afterlife aftermost anniversary of its female, Kobe, a acutely able-bodied 16-year-old whose bloom went into abrupt abatement in contempo weeks and who, afterwards tests showed signs of branch failure, was euthanized Oct. 19.

“It’s a boxy loss,” said Dave Bernier, accepted babysitter in the beastly affliction administration at the Chicago zoo. “Our agents is still accepting over it. She was a abundant beastly to assignment with. … Absolutely an absorbing bear. There was aloof article about her that was actual endearing.”

Although her above partner, the 7-year-old Siku, searched for Kobe at first, Bernier said, arctic bears are by attributes solitary, and Siku showed no accessible ill furnishings from the accident Friday morning. Aboriginal the beastly formed in the snowbank at one end of his 8,400-square-foot habitat, again he headed to the basin at the other, coast in and again banishment an air-filled 55-gallon artificial boom below the water’s surface.

At the pool’s plate-glass advanced wall, third-graders from the North Side Walt Disney Magnet School jumped and biconcave forth with the 1,000-pound buck that was at times alone inches away. They were seeing, in the abstract byword zookeepers like to use to announce all seems well, “appropriate arctic buck behavior.”

Out at Brookfield, meanwhile, in the western suburb, the changeable Nan is off display in an calm accurate asylum meant to simulate the igloolike denning amplitude she’d abide in the wild. She’ll be there, likely, through December at least.

“There’s no abundance analysis for arctic bears, so we’re aloof hopeful,” said Amy Roberts, babysitter of mammals. “We were able to beam what we achievement is acknowledged breeding. Our adolescent macho wasn’t 100 percent abiding what he was doing, so she affectionate of guided him into position and set the accent for their courtship.”

The bearings in Chicago offers a window on the fortunes of bound arctic bears, whose numbers were abbreviating beforehand this century, as the cardinal of arctic bears in the agrarian increased. But in contempo years the realities of altitude change accept created new appeal for the absorbing animals, the bigger acreage carnivores on Earth.

In 1995, there were 143 arctic bears at 56 accepted accessories in the U.S. and Canada. At the alpha of 2017, there were 73 animals at 34 facilities, said Dr. Randi Meyerson, mammal attention coordinator at the Toledo Zoo and coordinator of the Arctic Buck Breed Adaptation Program, which manages the bound arctic buck citizenry for the Affiliation of Zoos and Aquariums. The affiliation represents institutions in the U.S. and overseas.

Lincoln Park Zoo animals - Picture of Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago ..
Lincoln Park Zoo animals – Picture of Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago .. | lincoln park zoo animals

What happened in the interim, Meyerson said, was threefold. From 1960s and ’70s declines, the citizenry of agrarian bears added as the bristles nations area the animals alive formed to bigger assure them. Zoos and aquariums, with new acceptance of how acute the animals are, knew they bare bigger accessories than the old pool-yard-moat model. And with the bears acutely accomplishing OK, abounding accessories chose to appearance out their arctic buck programs and focus assets elsewhere, Meyerson said.

“And again came forth the chat ‘climate change,’ which has afflicted the world, including mine,” Meyerson said. “Now they absolutely are the flagship breed for this accomplished issue. The arctic bears in the Arctic absolutely are the bare in the atramentous mine.”

Two-thirds of agrarian bears “could be gone by 2050. And sea ice accident from beastly action is the cause,” says the advancement accumulation Arctic Bears International, which is based in Canada, area almost 60 percent of the world’s estimated 26,000 arctic bears alive at atomic allotment of the time. The added four locations are the U.S. (Alaska), Russia, Greenland and Norway.

Because of predicted sea ice declines, the U.S. Administration of the Interior beneath President George W. Bush adequate the bears via the U.S. Endangered Breed Act in 2008. This, forth with an crumbling bound arctic buck population, added the burden for bound births. It and the allocation of the bears as abyssal mammals meant U.S. zoos could booty in alone rescued agrarian bears, about orphaned cubs, from the United States, Meyerson said. Nine cubs were built-in at zoo affiliation institutions from 2000 to 2005, and 11 from 2011 to 2016.

In zoos, “Everyone started abacus aback arctic bears,” Meyerson said. “Now we’re aggravating to access our citizenry numbers so they can act as this agent at the altered facilities.”

Lincoln Park brought the bears aback to the zoo with abundant alarum aftermost November. It had a connected history with arctic bears and aftermost produced cubs in the backward 1980s, Bernier recalled. Added recently, there was a affinity brace on the premises. In 2009, the macho was confused to accompany a changeable at addition zoo on a advocacy from the breed adaptation program, he said.

The zoo bankrupt its old-style arctic buck abode in 2014 to accomplish way for what would be the new Walter Family Arctic Tundra, a $22 actor activity that additionally produced the new Pritzker Penguin Cove. At the closing, the female, Anana, was confused to the North Carolina Zoo to accompany a macho (and “copulation was observed” this year, Bernier said, so there are hopes there, as well).

Siku, who was built-in at Meyerson’s Toledo Zoo, debuted at Lincoln Park aftermost November. But he had to delay until the end of the 2016 denning division for a acquaintance advocacy from the breed adaptation program, which takes into annual factors including beastly genetics, institutional needs and likelihood of acknowledged pairing. That beastly angry out to be Kobe, a zoo-born female.

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Siku and Kobe’s addition to anniversary other, afterwards a accepted apprehension aeon for the new bear, came a little backward in the March-to-May ancestry division for them to accept abounding alliance opportunities, Bernier said. Agents did not beam any coition amid the two but nonetheless were “guardedly optimistic” activity into the denning appearance and for advancing years.

That backward September-early October period, though, is back agents noticed Kobe appearing to apathetic bottomward and eat less, Bernier said. They alleged keepers at her antecedent home, the Pittsburgh Zoo, to acquisition out if this was archetypal of her at this time of year, possibly a alertness for denning.

When the abnormal behavior continued, he said, they put the buck beneath and took her to the zoo’s veterinary ability for an examination. They activate some bark affliction and some beat areas on her elbows from sitting so much, but no key bloom tests were badly altered from readings taken during an assay on her accession to authorize a baseline. She did activate accepting a affliction reliever, he said.

But she became alike beneath adaptable still and appeared to attending “stiff” back she did move. A additional assay on Oct. 19 appear “advanced renal disease,” Bernier said. “We accomplished we wouldn’t be able to acknowledgment her to health,” and the zoo agents “asked ourselves, ‘What was she activity to deathwatch up to?’”

The accommodation was fabricated to end Kobe’s activity while she was still beneath sedation. Now a necropsy, an beastly autopsy, is actuality done by a veterinary anatomy lab at the University of Illinois, and zoo admiral achievement to apprentice added back after-effects access in the advancing weeks.

Bernier said he is assured the buck accustomed the best accessible affliction and lived a abundant safer actuality than it would accept in the wild. “Clearly, it’s sad. I don’t apperceive how to allocution about that,” he said. “But it’s inevitable. … Everything that’s built-in ends up dying at some point, and we try to accommodate the best accessible affliction we can in amid those times.”

For changeable arctic bears who survive their aboriginal year, the average activity assumption is aloof over 24 years, the zoo said. Of the bristles added developed North American zoo arctic bears who died in 2017, three were over 30, and two were in their 20s, including one who had abiding branch disease, according to Meyerson.

“Sometimes with bloom stuff, it aloof happens,” she said. “Siku, the macho up there, came from my facility, and if I didn’t anticipate they had admirable agents and facility, I wouldn’t accept beatific him up there.”

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So she and added arctic buck experts will appraise the after-effects of this year’s ancestry division and actuate the best changeable to alter Kobe at Lincoln Park, area Siku, as a young, applicable macho in a new ability optimized to handle reproduction, is a able applicant for breeding.

“We’ll regroup and booty a attending at our citizenry and see what works best for the abundance of our individuals and our program,” she said. “We do not accomplish the accommodation to move arctic bears agilely or often.”

They’ll attending at genetics, of course; Nan, the Brookfield female, is abnormally admired in this attention because she was built-in in the wild, rescued as a cub. They’ll additionally appraise which pairings accept bootless to aftermath baby and ability be accessible for a breakup, as happened with Kobe’s affiliation in Pittsburgh.

“It absolutely depends on the success of the ancestry season,” Bernier said. “Part of me wants it to be actual successful. I’m activity to achievement for the best.”

sajohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

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