When Bonnie came to San Diego in 1970, she won the hearts of locals as well as visitors from around the world. She was an active young lady, known for doing the backstroke across her pool and entering the water via a concrete slide, to the delighted amusement of everyone watching. She would sometimes stop her aquatic antics to blow a kiss to a tour bus or nap in the sun.
Bonnie raised three cubs in her lifetime. Like many other Zoo polar bears, each cub was delivered in an off-exhibit bedroom. In the 1980s, Bonnie’s main keeper made a modification to one of the bedrooms by adding a birthing den. After doing a great deal of research, the keeper designed a snug den that resembled an igloo. It was temperature controlled and equipped with a video camera so that keepers could monitor the den from their workspace. The video stream allowed keepers to see when Bonnie gave birth and to document and learn what goes on between a mother and her cubs in those first months when they remain secluded in the den.
In her later years, Bonnie became deaf, but she continued to enjoy soaking up the sun in her new habitat at Polar Bear Plunge—and kept in fine form with more backstroke laps.