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BOLIVIA—Leave it to bear-lover Howard Loughlin to deliver the bear facts.
Shadow and Jerry, two bears who are the last residents of the former Faircloth Zoo, are still lovingly being cared for and returning the appreciation every time the Pender County resident visits them—at least once a week.
Now, he and two friends are trying to raise enough money to help Shadow, a Syrian Grizzly/black bear mix, and Jerry, a brown Grizzly, be relocated to Lynwood Park Zoo in Jacksonville.
“We have someone who can take them if we can raise enough funds,” Lillian Caudill, former proprietor of the old zoo off Midway Road that closed in 2006, said as Loughlin and his friends, Lynn Rackley and Michael Dean, stopped by last week for another visit with the bears.
They brought treats—Little Debbie cakes and a basketful of peaches, which the bears quickly devoured.
“He’s waiting,” Caudill remarked as Shadow emerged from the large, brushy, fenced-in outdoor “den” and watched as the group approached with his beloved treats.
While the Jacksonville zoo is interested in getting the bears, the bruins’ “support group” consisting of the three Pender County residents is raising money to help build a facility to house them.
They’re trying to do so through a website, http://publicimage1.com/anf, and are also on Facebook under “Animal Needs.” Loughlin estimates they need between $6,000-$7,000 to “get it done really nice” with trees and plenty of room.
Since Faircloth Zoo closed, Dean said they’ve been hidden away.
“They want to go back into show business,” Loughlin said of the friendly bears that were born into captivity.
Caudill said 14-year-old Jerry has lived at the Brunswick County site for 12 years; Shadow for about six years.
“They’re some sweet boys,” Loughlin said as he approached Shadow’s cage. Within seconds, the 700-pound bear was eating Little Debbie cake from Loughlin’s hand, then a peppermint Caudill offered with her teeth through the wire fence.
“Shadow, look at your mama,” Loughlin coaxed seconds before Shadow finally looked up and took the mint.
Following his afternoon treat, Shadow jumped into his tub filled with water to cool off in the August heat.
“As long as the water’s running, he’ll stay in it,” Caudill said.
Minutes later, the bear-lovers moved across the way to a separate pen where brown bear Jerry lumbered out to greet Loughlin, who offered more food and kisses for the seemingly gentle bear, who playfully nipped Loughlin’s arm as the treats were doled out.
“Look at him licking my arm,” Loughlin said, chuckling. “He’s rushing me. He wants me to hurry up and give him his Little Debbies.”
“That’s what we need to do,” Loughlin said, laughing again as he fed more cake to the hungry bear. “Start a snack cake named Little Jerry.”