Gidget, 27-year-old sea lion who charmed millions at Denver Zoo, passes away

Gidget starred in sea lion show

DENVER - Gidget, a 27-year-old California sea lion who "charmed millions of guests" at the Denver Zoo's sea lion show," has passed away.

The elderly sea lion had lost her quality of life -- she was "having great difficulty moving and was refusing food and medication" -- and zoo staff humanely euthanized Gidget on Wednesday, officials said in a news statement.

"Gidget was a very charismatic animal that charmed millions of guests over the years at our sea lion show," said Denver Zoo President/CEO Craig Piper.

"She loved working with her keepers and awing guests with her swimming and agility. We are deeply saddened by this loss. She was adored by everyone that had the pleasure of meeting her," Piper said.

In 2010, keepers began to see signs that Gidget was showing stiffness and discomfort when walking.

Veterinary staff diagnosed Gidget with arthritis and began treatments with anti-inflammatory medication and pain killers.

Keepers altered Gidget's role in the sea lion show to include exercises like swimming that were part of her physical therapy and easy on her aging joints, zoo official said. The zoo also worked with outside experts, such as physical therapists and veterinary acupuncturists, to maintain her quality of life.

Gidget was a lifelong resident of Denver Zoo. She was born to parents, Skippy and Juanita, on June 17, 1985.

"In addition to being a star of the sea lion show, many guests will remember Gidget for giving then Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper a kiss to celebrate the city and the zoo achieving the highest certification for sustainable management" in 2009, zoo officials said.

Gidget was also well known for KUSA-TV sportscaster Drew Soicher's segment "Gidget Picks," where she predicted the winner of each Denver Broncos game by choosing between two team-logoed footballs every week.

Denver Zoo remains home to three other sea lions, adult male and female Nick and Luci and their daughter, Ady.

"Although, she was not always accurate, guests still clamored to find out which team she was betting on until her 'retirement' in the 2010 season," zoo officials said.