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Bear dies at Durham museum

Sad news from the Museum of Life and Science. Ursula, a 20-year-old bear, was euthanized on Tuesday.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Sad news today from the Museum of Life and Science in Durham.

Staff was forced to euthanize Ursula, a 20-year-old bear, after realizing the lameness she had been experiencing in her hind legs was only getting worse.

On the advice of the museum's consulting veterinarian Dr. Debbie Vanderford, Ursula had been removed from the museum's Explore the Wild exhibit in early July and placed on restricted activity. She was prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain medications.

Keepers crushed the medicines and places them in watermelons that were donated by the community, according to a press release. They also were mixed up in a concoction of peanut butter, honey and syrup.

Ursula's condition improved and she returned to the exhibit on Oct. 3, but her condition took a turn for the worse 10 days later.

“Her back legs completely gave out. Without the use of her back legs, the decision to euthanize Ursula, while heartbreaking, became clear.” Sherry Samuels, animal department director, said in the release.

Ursula, nicknamed Urs, was about 9 months old when she arrived at the museum on Oct. 30, 1991. New York wildlife officials rescued the bear, who was living with a person who was keeping her illegally. Because she'd been with humans so long, wildlife officials decided Ursula couldn't be released into the wild so she was sent to the Durham museum.

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, the release said.

“She will be missed. She will be missed by many,” Samuels said.

Check the museum's website for more about Ursula and its adopt a bear program.

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