Many of us, who grew up in the ‘60s, remember “Yogi Bear”, the good-natured cartoon bear that was bent on stealing picnic baskets in Jellystone Park, constantly accompanied by his little buddy “Boo-Boo Bear”. 

A Michigan zoo had its own “Yogi”, a beloved brown bear that was adopted from Yellowstone National Park in 1994. It seems that he also had a reputation for repeated “human area conflict”. "Yogi" would have been euthanized at that time if the John Ball Zoo, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, had not provided him with a home. 

A Gentle, Easygoing Bear Who Loved Treats 

"Yogi" had a gentle, easygoing personality and was a beloved member of the John Ball animal family, and like the cartoon “Yogi”, was always ready for a snack. Jackie Wolflinger-Zellinger, swing keeper at John Ball Zoo, reminisces, 

Yogi's favorite day of the week was bone day. He would pass up his dinner and any sweet snack we had for him, such as his evening medications mixed with honey or jam, for it, and he would be busy chewing until all the meat was gone. He was such a joy to work with. 


The Beloved Bear Crosses The Rainbow Bridge   

"Yogi" was able to spend almost 30 years at the zoo, and as he aged he developed arthritis. His evening medications began to fail to ease his pain and the heartbreaking decision was made that it was time for him to cross the Rainbow Bridge to end his suffering. "Yogi" was humanely euthanized this week at John Ball Zoo. 

Yogi, The Beloved Brown Bear

"Yogi" the brown bear at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
John Ball Zoo

Yogi Will Continue To Bring Joy To Children 

The joy and comfort that "Yogi" brought to children visiting the zoo will continue. In honor of the good-natured bear, stuffed animals are being collected to commemorate his life and will be handed out to provide comfort to children at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Jaime Racalla, zookeeper supervisor at John Ball Zoo, says, 

We’re very proud of the long life he had and the excellent care he received from our team into his later years. It is heartwarming to know that Yogi will continue to bring tokens of joy and comfort to children through the stuffed animal drive in his honor. 

Visit The Zoo, Donate A Toy, To Remember Yogi 

John Ball Zoo is in the process of collecting stuffed animals for the kids at Helen Devos. Jeannine Brown, certified child life specialist at Helen Devos, relates, 

These stuffed animals comfort our kids during their admission and aid in the healing process. We pass out many stuffed animals every day to brighten a child’s stay especially if they forgot their treasured stuffed animal or lovey at home. 

If you would like to pass along the love, you can bring a stuffed animal to the zoo through October 19th between 10 AM-4 PM. The stuffed animals should be new with tags and can be dropped off at the John Ball Zoo Guest Services office. 

The Fantasy Forest at Leila Arboretum In Battle Creek, Michigan

It was 2015 and the emerald ash borer had begun to devastate ash trees at the Leila Arboretum, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Leila Arboretum Society Executive Director Brett Myers tried to come up with a solution to the death of the ash trees in the woodland. Out of this grim situation rose the phoenix of the Fantasy Forest. The dying ash trees would become the canvas for the creation of wood sculptures created by chainsaw artists. 
Chainsaw artists from across the nation now converge on Battle Creek, Michigan, to compete for cash prizes in the now-yearly Fantasy Forest Chainsaw Festival.

Gallery Credit: Brad Carpenter/Fantasy Forest/Leila Arboretum

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