One first residents of the Arcturos shelter in northern Greece, Mitsos the bear – aka the “escape artist” – has died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 29 years, Arcturos announced on Wednesday.
By bearish standards, Mitsos lived a long and eventful life, starting out as a “dancing bear” in the city of Tripolis. Though confiscated by authorities early on, he had to be returned to the original owner due to a lack of a suitable facility to keep him, on condition that he would not be mistreated and used for profit. After complaints that the owner was once again using him as a performing animal, he was permanently confiscated in 1992 – at the age of three years old – and taken to the Florina Zoo.
It was during his stay here that he earned the nickname “the escape artist” due to his many attempts to get out, though he was always very cooperative and invariably returned to his pen when the zookeepers asked him, after each escape attempt.
In 1993 he was transferred to the “Arcturos” veterinary station for urgent dental work – a condition affecting many dancing bears due to their poor diet and living conditions in captivity. An impressively large animal that weighed as much as 250 kilos in his prime, Mitsos was nevertheless calm and lived harmoniously alongside the other bears that found shelter at Arcturos.
There are now 14 brown bears living at the shelter that cannot be released into the wild for various reasons. As part of a program to create an International Environmental Center, with a donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the shelter will be expanded and modernized next year, enabling it to house more bears but also to give visitors the opportunity to come into closer contact with nature and wildlife.