There were usually quite audible “ooohs” and “wows!” when Zoo visitors got their first look at the “big guy” in the Manchurian brown bear exhibit. Blackie was often basking in the sun, where the light played off his rich fur, mahogany brown bordering on black, and his exquisite coat seemed to glow. When most people think of brown bears, they think of chocolate-colored creatures, but these bears can range from tan, blond, and gold to many shades of brown to near black—even gray or silver.
Weighing more than 600 pounds, Blackie was an impressive fellow, yet his bulk belied a mellow personality—for a bear. The only thing he enjoyed more than splashing in his pool were the pumpkins he occasionally received. He would take the gourd in his huge paws and feast on it, devouring every last seed and shred.
Blackie delighted school groups fortunate enough to “meet” him on a behind-the-scenes tour. With a class assembled at the back of the enclosure, the keeper would open a door and there would be Blackie’s huge head, his dark, intelligent eyes peering at the children. As they watched him watch them—and his keeper—they connected with this wild animal on a deep level. Blackie left a lasting impression on every human that met him.