Jan 25, 2024 - History

The polar bear that captured San Francisco's heart

Black-and-white photo of a veterinarian hugging a small white baby polar bear as a crowd looks on

A crowd watches as caretaker Gail Hedberg embraces Piké, a baby polar bear who was reared at the San Francisco Zoo. Photo: Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images

Piké the polar bear was born in 1982 and hand-reared in the San Francisco Zoo her entire life after her mother could not raise her.

How it happened: In the early months of her life, she was under round-the-clock care and even lived in the Fremont home of her guardian, SF Zoo veterinary technician Gail Hedberg.

  • Piké grew into a curious and interactive zoo resident who enjoyed swimming, fishing, napping and lounging on top of snow transported into her enclosure.

Of note: While the average lifespan of a polar bear is around 23 years, Piké lived to the age of 32 and became one of the oldest polar bears in the U.S.

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