Asheboro, NC – Holly, a black bear who lived at the North Carolina Zoo for 24 years, was humanely euthanized on Wed., Nov. 6, 2019.  Holly arrived at the Zoo, along with another black bear male Yanu, on February 13, 1995. Both were confiscated by the NC Wildlife Commission from an unaccredited roadside zoo in 1992 in Cherokee County, N.C.  She was estimated to be 28 years old and wild-born. Her companion Yanu died at the Zoo in 2017.

Holly was diagnosed with oral neoplasia (an abnormal, cancerous growth) and the veterinarians made the hard decision to euthanize Holly due to her deteriorating quality of life. The rapid onset of disease caught the caretakers and veterinarians off guard as they were surprised by the size and extent of the mass. She had just had an exam in April of this year without any sign of the disease.

The black bear is an iconic North Carolina animal. Of the three species of bears found in North America—the polar bear, the brown (grizzly) bear, and the black bear – the black bear is the smallest and found predominately in North Carolina making this native species an important part of the state’s history and cultural heritage. 

Black bear populations decreased dramatically in the 1900s due to habitat loss and hunting for their fur and meat. The populations of black bears in the state are now stable and increasing because 500,000 acres of land have been designated as bear sanctuaries by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

The black bear population in the state is estimated to be around 11,000, concentrated mainly in the mountains and coastal areas.

The black bear is a shy, non-aggressive animal that avoids human beings in most cases. Occasionally bears wander into towns or residential areas in search of food, but bears should never be fed human-processed foods, such as garbage, pet food, or bird food. Dependence on human food may cause bears to have increased interaction with people, which can cause them to become aggressive and dangerous.

To learn how to avoid human-bear contact, please visit

Black bears, on average, are 5-6 feet in length and 2-3 feet on all fours. Adult females can weight 100-300 pounds and males 200-700 pounds. In the wild, they are estimated to live approximately 20 years.


About the North Carolina Zoo

At the North Carolina Zoo, we celebrate nature. As the world’s largest natural habitat Zoo, we inspire a lifelong curiosity about animals for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Zoo each year. Our dedicated team of experts provides exceptional, compassionate care for the more than 1,800 animals and 52,000 plants that call our Park home. We also lead efforts locally and globally to protect wildlife and wild places because we believe nature’s diversity is critical for our collective future. The North Carolina Zoo invites all of our guests to witness the majesty of the wild in the heart of North Carolina and welcomes everyone to join in our mission to protect nature’s diversity. Visit to begin your life-changing journey.

About the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call 919- 807-7300 or visit