Feature

Animal Instincts

July 1995

Klondike and Snow are at it again, being cute. The polar bear cubs are tumbling around their home at the Denver Zoo, wrestling over a football — and captivating a growing crowd.

Cindy Bickel is the most captivated observer of all. She’s smiling, standing on tiptoe, and craning her neck for a better view. Hers is the proud, satisfied look that a mother gets while watching her children.

With good reason.

The 42-year-old Bickel is one of three zoo workers who miraculously brought the cubs back from near death — literally taking the place of their mother, Ulu, who rejected them at birth. Their story made news around the world.

Someone in the crowd recognizes Bickel, and she is suddenly surrounded by fans, some who wear Klondike and Snow buttons. She patiently talks to them all.

Although the Denver native has helped save more than 100 baby animals in her 24 years at the Denver Zoo, the intense media coverage showered on the cubs may forever link her to Klondike and Snow.