News Room | Honoring Ursula
Museum loses beloved bear
(DURHAM, NC – October 18, 2011) Durham’s Museum of Life and Science’s beloved bear, Ursula, was euthanized on Tuesday, October 18. Museum staff made the difficult decision to euthanize the twenty-year-old bear after realizing the lameness she continued to experience in her hind legs was worsening and was not going to improve.
“Many months ago, keepers noticed that Ursula was walking abnormally. She had a geriatric demeanor for quite a while. We assumed it was most likely degenerative joint disease,” commented Dr. Debbie Vanderford, Museum’s consulting veterinarian.
On July 8, under the advice of Dr. Vanderford, Ursula was removed from the Museum’s Explore the Wild exhibition, placed on restricted activity and prescribed a regimen of anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
Keepers crushed the medicines and placed them in watermelons that were generously donated by members of the community and also placed the medicines in a concoction of peanut butter, honey and syrup. According to Museum keepers, Ursula’s condition stabilized enough to re-introduce her to the exhibit with the other bears on October 3. However, on October 13, her condition took a turn for the worse.
“Her back legs completely gave out. Without the use of her back legs, the decision to euthanize Ursula, while heartbreaking, became clear.” commented Sherry Samuels, animal department director.
Ursula, nicknamed Urs, was approximately 9 months old when she arrived at the Museum of Life and Science on October 30, 1991. The young bear was rescued by wildlife officials in New York who confiscated her from a person who was keeping her illegally. Wildlife officials deemed Ursula non-releasable to the wild due to long term exposure to humans, which is why she was sent to live at the Durham Museum.
During Ursula’s twenty year stay at the Museum, a countless number of visitors were able to watch her grow up and hear many stories shared by Museum keepers. Those who knew Ursula well describe her as a silly and playful youngster, who grew into a cranky adult and later, as a senior, turned into a sweet and amusing old girl.
“She will be missed. She will be missed by many,” said Sherry Samuels.