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Bye bye Bernie: Tiger Bernadette is moving to Minnesota

Oct. 12, 2023, 11:02 a.m.
Topic: Arrivals and departures
Bernadette tiger in the grass outside

She’s made a big impression since moving to Portland in 2019, but it’s time to bid Bernadette the tiger a fond Rose City farewell. The big cat departs for  the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minn., this month. The last day to see her at the Oregon Zoo will be Sunday, Oct. 15. 


While it is hard for Oregon Zoo staff to see Bernadette go, they are happy she will have the opportunity to raise cubs and help ensure a long-term future for one of the world’s rarest big cats.  


“We will all miss Bernie,” said Amy Hash, who supervises the Oregon Zoo’s Amur tiger area. “She is a spicy tiger — playful and always one step ahead. Now she’s taking another important step, and we are so proud we got to be part of her story.” 


Amur tigers, the largest of the nine tiger subspecies, are at serious risk of extinction, with only around 500 believed to remain in their native range. In addition to poaching and habitat loss, one of the most pressing threats facing these critically endangered cats is lack of genetic variation, and zoos are participating in coordinated programs to help preserve them. 


Bernadette came to Oregon on a recommendation from the Species Survival Plan for Amur tigers — a cooperative program among zoos that helps create genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  


Though the Oregon Zoo’s lacks adequate denning space for tigers to raise cubs, it plays a critical role in the SSP by housing tigers not currently recommended for breeding. Once Bernadette is safely on her way, the zoo will make some minor updates to the habitat and expects to welcome a pair of young male tigers later this fall. 


Born Sept. 14, 2016, at the Milwaukee County Zoo, Bernadette was the smallest of three cubs in her litter — but what she lacked in size she made up for in personality, according to her caregivers. They described the tiny cub as a “spitfire” who quickly let the others know she was in charge — and she maintained that spirit even as an adult.