Snow Lily’s 36th birthday

Dec 7th, 2020 | By | Category: Molly's reports

8.12.2020 by Molly Merrow, Photos by Michelle Rippey

Reaching the age of 36 is a rare thing for polar bears, and is a cause for a big celebration. Snow Lily of the Milwaukee County Zoo had just such a party on Saturday, her actual birthday. She had another party a few weeks ago, a kind of pre-birthday event. But Saturday, December 5, was the big day. We are fortunate that Michelle Rippey, Snow Lily’s biggest fan, was there with her camera to record this event and share it with us.


Snow Lily’s yard was grandly decorated with pink, blue, white and purple streamers. Her keepers had used chalk to write their congratulations, by putting up in big letters and numbers: 36!, Happy Birthday Snow Lily, and the date of her birth, December 5, 1984, all over the logs and stone walls.


A tire was emblazoned with “Looking Good” and “Looking Great,” for Snow Lily is very active for any age of polar bear, and looks beautiful. She plays and swims often, and looks much younger than her advanced years.


The zoo is lucky to have a number of sponsors to donate enrichment for the animals, and all the seafood was donated, as well as cardboard boxes for play.



One such box had been pierced with holes, and there were crab legs, Snow Lily’s favorite treat, sticking out, with more crab legs inside.




She also found a pizza box with shrimp inside, and more crab legs gift wrapped in box with a paw print motif. And there were scallops and squid too, to add to the festivities. All for Snow Lily.

The centerpiece of the celebration was a big turquoise “36” cut from plastic. Snow Lily looked it over and knocked it down.


During her pre-birthday celebration, she had been presented with a plastic table and chair set. Now she has a little blue stool to add to the tea party. She likes to drag her toys into her bedroom.



She loves to show off her treats to all the guests, and because it was Family Free Day at the zoo, there was a good sized crowd to watch Snow Lily celebrate.

The final present was a white bunny (already deceased) wrapped in a gift box. When Snow Lily retrieved her prize, she proudly carried it around as if showing the dead bunny all her decorations and presents. And then she took it inside to eat it.





Snow Lily, at age 36, is the oldest polar bear in the Western Hemisphere. She shares the honor of being the oldest polar bear in the world with Katjuscha of the Berlin Zoo, who is two weeks older, and Winnie of the zoo in Sendai Japan, who is two weeks younger than Snow Lily.

Katjuscha was born in Zoo Karlsruhe in Germany on November 16, 1984. and has lived in the Berlin Zoo most of her life, some of those years with Lars, her half sister Nancy, and Tosca, and also with famous young Knut. Katjuscha lives alone in the Berlin Zoo now.

Snow Lily was born in the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester NY on December 5, 1984, to Penny and Nicklee, who were also parents of Coldilocks,who also lived a very long life. Coldilocks was born in 1980 and died in 1918 at the age of 37 and 3 months. In 1991 Snow Lily gave birth to a son named Tundra. He died in 2017 in the Bronx Zoo. Snow Lily has lived in Milwaukee since 2005. She has had companions, Zero and rescued circus bear Wilhelm, but she preferred to be on her own.


Winnie was born in Winnipeg Canada to Skipper and Debby on December 15. Debby is famous for living to the legendary age of 42, an age not approached by any other polar bear. Winnie was her only cub. Winnie has lived in the Yagiyama Zoo in Sendai, Japan since she was under a year old. There are two other polar bears living there.

So happy birthday to these three lady polar bears. And more birthdays to you all.


It’s wonderful when the zoos celebrate these wonderful bears, but it is also important enrichment, and Snow Lily really seemed to enjoy her day.

Thanks to Michelle, for the great photos.

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  1. Dear Michelle, Dear Molly!

    There’s no doubt the keepers love their Snow Lily! What a fantastic birthday party they arranged for their beloved polar bear lady – and not only one but two parties!

    I love all the decorations and gifts and I’m sure Lily loved them even more. 😀

    The little table and the chairs are adorable and, of course, the eatable gifts were yammy, yammy, yammy.

    Snow Lily looks amazingly good and she seems to be even very playful considering her age.

    Thank you so much for this charming article! Snow Lily deserves all the celebration and that’s exactly what she got on her 36th birthday.

    Hugs from Mervi

  2. Die allerbesten Wünsche für dich,gute Snow Lily und noch eine gute Zeit!

    LG Brigitte.

  3. Dear Molly and Michelle!
    Thank you for the report about Snow Lily. She got many presents to her birthday and she was very interested in everything.

  4. That’s also a greeat LADY.
    Thanks for showing.

    All the best for this “LOOKING GOOD – LOKING GREAT – LADY” of the ‘Milwaukee County Zoo’

  5. Happy birthday dear Snow Lily. We wish you all the best. We love you very much.
    Happy birthday dear Kati and Winnie too. We love you all.
    Thank you very much dear Molly and Michelle.

  6. Liebe Mervi,

    das ist eine liebevoll gestaltete Geburtstagsfeier für Lily und sie genießt ihre Geschenke. So soll das sein.
    Katjuscha ist also in bester Gesellschaft, obwohl sie nicht nicht mehr ganz so jugendlich wirkt wie Lily.

    Danke auch an Molly und Michelle für den Bericht und die Fotos!


  7. Schöne Fotos! Dann ist sie ja fast so alt wie Katjuscha! Alles Gute, liebe Snow Lily!

  8. Dear Michelle, Molly and Mervi!
    Thank you for these beautiful photos of Snow Lily’s birthday party.
    It is heartwarming that her keepers spoiled her so much on her day of honor and that she was visibly happy about it. Old bears are so loveable!

    I wish her several more good and healthy years.


  9. Dear Michelle & Molly

    Thank you for the nice photos of the birthday party. 🙂
    Snow Lilly looks very good for her age. The keepers
    have outdone thereselves in presenting so many
    delicious presents and funny toys ! I wish
    Snow Lilly a long life (maybe 42 !? ). 🙂

    Chris 🙂

  10. Dear Molly, Michelle and Mervi
    Thank you for this special uniting three special ladies. Snow Lily Winnie and Katjuscha are so splendid. They are true stars.

  11. Dear Molly and Michelle!

    I send Snow Lily one more best wishes for her 36th birthday!
    I like the fact that the lady is still in the mood for partying and also that the animal care team has prepared everything for Snow Lily.
    Snow Lily is curious, interested and very pleased about the roast rabbit.

    Thank you so much for this adorable birthday party story!!