NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — Nikki, a cougar who made her home at New Bedford’s Buttonwood Park Zoo, has passed away.

She was 14 years old.

Nikki was euthanized on February 22; the zoo said in a release that her death followed “a period of rapid decline due to end-stage chronic kidney disease.”

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The zoo said her appetite had been decreasing and that she had become lethargic.

“Once she began refusing food, medication was no longer an option,” the zoo said. “The decision was made to humanely euthanize Nikki, surrounded by those she carefully selected to be in her inner circle.”

Courtesy Buttonwood Park Zoo
Courtesy Buttonwood Park Zoo

“These decisions are always difficult,” said Gary Lunsford, Director of Zoological Services. “The team does everything possible to provide the best lives for our animal residents, and it isn’t easy to let them go.”

Katie Harding of the zoo’s animal care staff spent 13 years working with Nikki, described as “willful and stubborn” by team members, according to the zoo.

“You knew when she trusted you,” Harding said. “It wasn’t easy, but when you got there, you knew you were lucky to be part of her circle.”

Courtesy Buttonwood Park Zoo
Courtesy Buttonwood Park Zoo

Buttonwood Park Zoo still has Nikki’s companion, Riley – a male cougar who is also 14 years old and showing signs of kidney disease, the zoo said. He is undergoing treatment and his health will be closely monitored over the next few weeks and months.

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