Flocke was born at the Nuremberg Zoo on 11 December 2007 to Vera (born 2002 in Moscow) and Felix (born 2001 in Vienna). Felix also mated with Vera's sister Vilma, who gave birth some weeks earlier in November to what officials thought were two cubs. Zookeepers, enforcing a strict non-interference policy, were not able to determine exactly how many cubs were born. The zoo reportedly did not wish to create a media circus similar to the one that surrounded Knut, an orphaned polar bear at the Berlin Zoo who became an international celebrity the previous year. Days after the zoo reaffirmed its non-interference policy, mass circulation daily Bild ran a story with a headline reading “Why Won't Anyone Save the Cute Baby Knuts in Nuremberg Zoo?”
At the beginning of January, zoo keepers noticed that Vilma appeared nervous; she was seen agitatedly scratching at her feedbox, and there was no further sign of her cubs. It is believed that she devoured them. When asked for a reason, Nuremberg zoo director Dag Encke stated that they could have been ill, a circumstance under which polar bears in the wild often eat their young. The zoo quickly faced harsh criticism throughout Germany and from the worldwide media for appearing to allow the cubs' death. The director of the German Animal Protection Society said the zoo had acted irresponsibly and that “it was the ethical responsibility of the management to give the polar bear cubs a chance of life. Using the argument ‘That’s Nature' as an excuse for intervening far too late is cynical and inappropriate.” Angry visitors gathered in front of the polar bear enclosure and shouted “Rabenmutter” (literally, “raven mother,” meaning “evil mother”) every time Vilma appeared.
Meanwhile, Vera was seen emerging from her den for the first time; her single cub, helpless at only four weeks old, appeared to be in good health. A couple days after the media backlash that followed Vilma's missing cubs, Vera began displaying strange behavior such as carrying her then-unnamed cub around the enclosure and repeatedly dropping it on the hard rock floor. Concerned for the cub's safety, the Nuremberg Zoo made a controversial decision to remove her from her mother's care and raise her by hand.