Gus—the Central Park Zoo's polar bear, who became a symbol of the stress of living in New York—has died.
The bear, 27, was euthanized Tuesday, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The bear had been "exhibiting abnormal feeding behavior with low appetite and difficulty chewing and swallowing his food," and veterinarians found a "large, inoperable tumor in his thyroid region." Gus became something of a symbol of the stresses of living in New York City in the mid-90s.
Not long after arriving in New York in 1988 after being born in 1985 in Toledo, Gus' habit of swimming laps back and forth in his pool had zoo-goers worried and got him labeled the "bipolar bear." In 1994, an animal psychologist was brought in to treat Gus. "Gus, insists Allison Power, the zoo spokeswoman, 'is actually healthy. It's just a mild neurosis,'" John Kifner wrote in the New York Times in July of that year. "JUST A MILD NEUROSIS? CALL YOURSELF A NEW YORKER AND ALL YOU GOT IS A MILD NEUROSIS?"
The following year, satirists Henry Beard and John Boswell published the 72-page book What's Worrying Gus? described as a "timeless tale of the quintessential outsider coping with the harsh reality of New York in the '90s." The book featured a cover image of Gus superimposed on a therapist's couch.
Gus' therapeutic treatment involved toys, games, and, reportedly, Prozac. Zoo officials became concerned about Gus' emotional state again in 2011 when his companion Ida was put down at the age of 25 after suffering from liver disease
The WCS reports that Gus was visited by more than an estimated 20 million people in his time in Central Park, and outlived the median life expectancy for polar bears in zoos, which is 20.7 years. For one reason or another, the story of a sad bear became an emblem of life in the city.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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