Grandfather Mountain’s Facebook page filled with condolences this week over the death of Dakota, a captive black bear at the iconic tourist destination.
Dakota arrived at Grandfather in 1997 as a 10-week-old cub that was “the sweetest little bear,” the resort wrote. She died Saturday from complications of cancer.
Bears have been a symbol of the 5,964-foot mountain since the days of Mildred, who adorned billboards and posed for pictures with visitors from baseball great Ted Williams to British royalty. Grandfather’s owner, the late Hugh Morton, flew the mountain’s flags at half-staff when Mildred died in 1993.
Dakota and a sibling, Carolina, came from a bear rescue center in Rapid City, S.D., Grandfather says. Her file says she would “cry at the top of her lungs” when her sister was being hand-fed by keepers.
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Dakota apparently didn’t stay sweet in maturity. “Over the years, she has commonly adopted the nickname ‘Crazy Bear,’ ” her Facebook tribute says.
She grew up tough, smart and domineering, it says, impatient for treats and sometimes bullying the mountain’s six other bears. Dakota also had a playful side, loving to stand on her hind legs and belly-flop into her pond.
“Her personality persisted through all the challenges that faced her with cancer, and she was tough and spunky to the end,” it says. “We will dearly miss our beautiful, crazy bear, Dakota.”