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CATs for Bears

When administrators from the Museum of Life and Science noticed their black bear, Yona, walking with a limp, they wasted no time in getting her to the College of Veterinary Medicine for a state-of-the-art checkup. Further examination by the Museum’s consulting veterinarians indicated that Yona, who was found as a four-pound cub by Appalachian Bear Rescue, had an angular deformity in her right limb. A CT-scan was needed to help diagnose the specific issue.

Arrangements were made with the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and a team of clinicians, veterinary technicians, and museum staff assisted with the procedure. Led by orthopedics professor Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little, the team included Dr. Michael Stoskopf, a professor of zoological medicine, and Dr. Kristen Messenger, who administered the anesthesia.

The team was busy: during her 2.5-hour sedation, Yona — the name is means “bear” in Cherokee — had a CT scan, radiographs, blood work, a dermatology exam, including skin scrape and punch biopsy, physical exam, extensive manipulation of her limbs, and more.

“It seems Yona injured her arm a long time ago,” Marcellin-Little said. “Fortunately, her arm is still growing.

“Her elbow is a little bit out of alignment, but that does not appear to be getting worse,” he said. “She broke a piece of bone the size of an almond inside her elbow and that piece is moving around the joint. We’ll watch how she does and may remove the bone in the future as she grows, gains weight, and places more stress on the limb.”

Now, Yona currently is back in the bear habitat at the Museum of Life and Science, where she continues to wrestle with the museum’s four-year-old black bear, Gus, swim in the bear pool, climb the mulberry tree and relax near the waterfall —all to the delight of habitat visitors who come to see the bear that made headline news.