Goliath the Bear
Beemerville, New Jersey
When Goliath, the Alaskan Brown Bear, was put to sleep in 1991, his rheumatism was so bad he couldn't stand up to get a drink of water. Still, the twelve foot tall bear was twenty-four when he died ("96 in people years"), and while he was alive had entertained a generation of visitors to Beemerville's Space Farms Zoo & Museum.
Back in 1989, Parade Magazine named Space Farms one of the "Ten Worst Zoos In America" (Along with other Roadside perennial, Saunookes Bear Land of Cherokee, NC). In 1990, a follow-up story reported that three of the bad zoos had closed, four had improved substantially, and three were still business-as-usual (including both Space Farms and Saunookes Bear Land). One judge was especially bothered by Goliath's confinement in a small cage with a concrete floor.
Fred Space, son of founder Ralph E. Space, and current proprietor, blamed the poor report card on humane society prejudices against Space Farm's antique trap display and animal exhibits that provide information on the value of pelts. His dad had been founder and president of the New Jersey Fur Breeders Association, and president of the National Board of Fur Farmers Organization.
Perhaps to appease the judges, Space Farms now has programs focusing on saving endangered species, like the South Korean elk and Taiwan's fallow dear, and is using their breeding pair of Hokkaido bears to help restore that species to its native Japan. A large petting zoo also ups the PC factor.
But as a golden link to the bygone days when 100,000 visitors came each year, Goliath is still at Space Farms, mounted in between a case of guns and a hat rack made of antlers, entertaining the children of today.