By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The oldest brown bear in captivity in North America died at the age of 40 at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in central Ohio, officials said on Friday.
Ginger, a female grizzly - a subspecies of brown bear - was euthanized on Thursday afternoon due to severe conditions brought on by old age, the zoo said.
"For years, she had been treated for things like arthritis," zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters said. "Yesterday, she could not get up and we believed she wasn't going to get any better."
At 40, Ginger far surpassed the median life expectancy of more than 26 years for a female brown bear in a U.S. zoo and outlived the previous record of 38.4 years, the zoo said. Female brown bears tend to live longer than their male counterparts, who have a median life expectancy of almost 22 years.
“Every loss is heartbreaking, but the long time that Ginger has made the Columbus Zoo home makes this one tougher,” zoo curator Carrie Pratt said in a statement. “Most of the keepers here grew up with her."
Ginger, one of the zoo's longest residents, was born at the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens on Jan. 26, 1975, and was later moved to the Cleveland Zoo, where she gave birth to six cubs. She moved to Columbus in 1987 and had two more cubs.
On her last birthday in January, Ginger “devoured a special bear-shaped cake made out of peanut butter,” Peters said.
(Editing by Ben Klayman and Eric Walsh)