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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

She’s a bad mama from Montana, but she’s already winning hearts at the Milwaukee County Zoo even though she still doesn’t have a name, and it will be a month before she makes her first public appearance.

For now, they just call her Yellowstone Bear 325, and her reputation is bigger than she is. After all, 275 pounds is downright delicate for a 5-year-old grizzly, especially one who has been in as much trouble as this one.

At the age of 2, she was knocking off garbage cans just north of Gardiner, Mont. Caught, radio-collared and relocated deep in Yellowstone National Park, she denned up there for the winter.

But by spring 1999, she was diving into garbage bins and raiding bird feeders, and the next year was worse. With two cubs to feed in 2000, she became a regular at the edge of Gardiner. This spring, after ditching the kids for a brief romp with a passing male, she and the cubs rampaged through orchards, a fish hatchery and a poultry farm.

Kevin Frey, bear management officer in Montana, knew she was hooked on human food and was teaching her cubs the same bad habits. For 325, it was captivity or death.

Frey called Diana Weinhardt at the Houston Zoo, chairwoman of the species survival plan for captive grizzlies, who called Elizabeth Frank, curator of large mammals in Milwaukee.

“I can’t wait to meet this bear,” Frank told Frey and Weinhardt.

Bear 325 had a home.

Even after a week of travel, 325 was settling in with a minimum of fuss for at least 30 days of off-exhibit quarantine.

Keeper Dave Renock has found the way to the new girl’s heart: apples, carrots, ground meat and nutritional pellets known as omnivore chow. That’s good, since a bear needs to gain weight before hibernation, and because this one may be pregnant. (Remember the romp on the range?)

“By November,” Renock said, “that will be one big bear.”

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