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Wildlife Images mourns loss of Alaskan brown bear

Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch Wildlife Images Executive Director Dave Siddon hangs out with Kodi, a 1,200-pound Alaskan brown bear, in this undated file photo. Kodi died this week after three decades of care at the Southern Oregon nonprofit.

Wildlife Images is mourning the loss of a resident animal that lived at the nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and education center for the better part of three decades.

Kodi, an Alaskan brown bear that was cared for by Wildlife Images since he was a cub in the early 1990s, died this week after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure and liver cancer, according to a tribute on the nonprofit’s Facebook page.

“A wonderful ambassador for his species, he entertained and educated the public whether we were watching him smash a giant pumpkin or delicately picking up a berry while drooling all over the place,” the statement said. “Kodi was greatly loved by all and will never be forgotten by the people, his adoring fans or by those who cared for him for his whole life.”

Kodi and his twin sister, Yak, were rescued as cubs on a shoreline in Alaska, according to Wildlife Images, and the bears had been treated by Wildlife Images since September 1992.

Wildlife biologists believe that a territorial male bear killed Kodi and Yak’s mother. At the time of the cubs’ rescue, biologists feared that the cubs were at a similar risk.

The nonprofit’s goal in the ‘90s had been to rehabilitate the bears, but the state of Alaska denied requests to return the bears to their native habitat. In 1996, the nonprofit made Kodi and Yak permanent residents at the education center, which Wildlife Images calls “Animal Ambassadors.”

At an estimated age of about 30 years old, Kodi outlived Alaskan brown bears in the wild by between 5 and 10 years, Wildlife Images said.

The nonprofit’s Executive Director Dave Siddon said his time with Kodi brought back memories of his father, Wildlife Images founder David Siddon, Sr.

"Kodi and I had a very trusting relationship, and every time I saw him I would think of my father and that special spark Kodi brought to my father’s eyes,“ Siddon said in the post. ”I realize now that I, too, have a special place in my heart for grizzly bears thanks to the nearly 30 years I was lucky enough to spend with a very special bear.“

Mail Tribune archives show that Kodi was featured on TV at least once.

In a 2019 episode of Animal Planet’s “Crikey! It’s the Irwins,” Terri Irwin, wife of famed wildlife conservationist and television personality Steve Irwin, helped treat Kodi for age-related ailments, according a news report at the time. The nonprofit is shown adjusting Kodi’s arthritis medication and removing two painful teeth.

Wildlife Images is setting up a memorial for Kodi at the gazebo outside of his enclosure. The nonprofit is offering memorial plaques for $250 and $500. For more information, see wildlifeimages.org.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.