After roughly two decades at the Alaska Zoo, Ahpun the polar bear suddenly died last weekend, according to zoo officials.

Pat Lampi, the zoo’s director, said he was devastated after zoo staff discovered Ahpun's body Sunday morning. Lampi said Ahpun was roaming around her enclosure at the zoo when he left Friday.

Staff at the zoo had moved Ahpun to the zoo’s maternity unit, in the latest of several occasions on which they thought she might be pregnant. She was not, in fact, pregnant, Lampi said.

The bear showed no signs of illness, and results from a necropsy will be received in the coming weeks.

"We raised her here. So everyone misses her. She was one of our favorites of course,” said Lampi. "Such an iconic species of Alaska. She was such a beautiful specimen. Just a big, gorgeous bear, easy-going personality. Got to see her raised with Oreo and spend time with Louie.” 

Zoo officials had planned to celebrate Ahpun’s upcoming birthday on Jan. 20, an event Lampi said will likely become a celebration of life instead.

Ahpun was orphaned in 1998 near Point Lay on Alaska's northwest coast. A man returning from a fishing trip unknowingly approached a den and Ahpun's mother charged.

Ahpun was orphaned in 1998 near Point Lay on Alaska's northwest coast. A man returning from a fishing trip unknowingly approached a den and Ahpun's mother charged. The fisherman shot the bear in self-defense and determined she had emerged from a den. The fisherman crawled inside and found the cub.

The zoo also has a male polar bear named Louie. 

Heather Hintze and The Associated Press contributed information to this story.

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