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Aging to the Max: Cougar will spend golden years at Sanctuary, not Zoo

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A new age is dawning at Lake Superior Zoo. But an aging cougar named Max won't be part of it.

Max left Duluth this week and headed south to his retirement home, the zoo announced.

16-year-old Max had been at Lake Superior Zoo since 2011. But a plan to renovate the zoo and consolidate it into a smaller area is in the works.

Interim CEO Julene Boe tells the News Tribune it looks like the area where Max has been living will be outside the new boundaries of the zoo. What's more, Boe says, Max's enclosure no longer meets the standards required for a zoo to be accredited.

So on Monday he climbed into his transport cage – with no sedation or fussing – and took a nap on the ride down to The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone.

Executive director Tammy Theis says the Sanctuary will be Max's "final and forever home." 16 is pretty old for cougars (also known as mountain lions and pumas) and like many seniors Max suffers from arthritis, the Sanctuary says.

Theis tells the News Tribune that when he arrived in his new home Max "... got up and walked right out of his crate. He didn't growl or anything. He was just purring."

Max's lead zookeeper in Duluth, Maicie Sykes, tells FOX 21 the cougar had a week to get used to his transport crate before his big move.

And he'll be missed at Lake Superior Zoo. "Obviously we have a lot of love for Max. He is really a great animal. He's incredibly friendly," Sykes told FOX.

The Wildcat Sanctuary says Max spent the first decade of his life as a pet and after taking him in, the zoo used his story to educate people on why wild animals should not be kept as pets. The video below was part of that campaign.

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