• John Jantak

Juno the black bear passes away at Ecomuseum Zoo in Ste. Anne de Bellevue


PHOTO COURTESY ECOMUSEUM ZOO

Juno the black bear recently passed away from a degenerative disease and paralysis after being a resident at the Ecomusuem Zoo for five years.

Staff at the Ecomuseum Zoo in Ste. Anne de Bellevue are mourning the loss of Juno the black bear who was recently euthanized because of an unexpected illness and permanent paralysis.

Juno was found by fish and wildlife personnel in Manitoba in February, 2012. People came to regard her as a miracle bear. “She was estimated to be one-year-old but her size indicated she was no bigger than a newborn. She was sick, had parasites and was in distress. Nobody knows how she survived,” Ecomuseum Zoo Director David Rodrigue told The Journal during a telephone interview on October 2.

Degenerative spine condition

At this point, Juno was transferred to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Manitoba. “They did a tremendous job with her. They managed to basically save her and raise her for almost two years. This is when she came into our care in 2014. She was a small female bear whose growth was essentially stunted,” said Rodrigue.

What the personnel at the Ecomuseum Zoo didn’t know was that in addition to Juno’s stunted growth from the trauma she experienced, she had a degenerative spine condition from where the nerve endings come out of the spinal cord. “She had degeneration occurring through calcification of the bone and weakening at the same time,” said Rodrigue.

‘Her front legs were paralyzed’

“We came in one morning – the night before she was perfect – and the next morning her front legs were paralyzed. For almost one week, we went through all the tests. We tried to eliminate everything because, for example, ticks can be an issue so we made sure it wasn’t Lyme disease. She was paralyzed through all this time which is pretty horrible for a black bear that weighs 320 pounds,” said Rodrigue.

Zoo personnel tried their best to bring Juno back to her former condition but the paralysis and declining health persisted. “This is no way for a bear to live. You can’t even turn them around. She was on the floor – her front legs paralyzed. This is when we decided to proceed with the euthanasia. It was a rough patch for everyone,” said Rodrigue.

Ecomuseum staff at Juno’s side

Despite Juno’s death, Rodrigue said Juno had a great life during her time at the Ecomuseum Zoo. “One thing that makes me happy through all of this is that she went with all the animal keepers sitting on the floor with their hands on her and the rest of the zoo staff standing around. I’m very happy we were able to offer that to her,” he said.

Rodrigue said he isn’t sure how Genie – the other black bear at the Ecomuseum Zoo – reacted to Juno’s passing because bears are solitary animals. “She looked concerned and curious. She would actually come and look through the door where Juno was being treated. I don’t think Genie will be affected too much but it’s hard to say,” he said.

Another black bear may be adopted

A tribute to Juno posted on the Ecomuseum’s Facebook page stated, “A very playful, curious and energetic bear, Juno was always up to something! She loved bathing in the pond in her living space and interacting with her neighbors the gray wolves. She had a sweet tooth and was quite fond of berries, honey and sunflower seeds.”

The Ecomuseum Zoo will consider the possibility of adopting another black bear. “We try to be available for animals that can’t be released,” said Rodrigue. “It will depend on its gender and temperament to determine if we can go through the social training successfully. You have to do that if you want the two bears together.”

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