Death of Mama Gus the bear leaves ‘huge hole’ at Durham Children’s Museum

THE Museum of Life and Science euthanized an 18-year-old black bear last week after discovering an inoperable cancerous mass, the Durham Museum announced Monday.

Gus had been part of the museum experience since he arrived as a toddler in 2006.

Staff noticed a drastic change in his behavior, according to a press release. Veterinarians at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine discovered the mass near his heart and lungs during an exam and, based on his prognosis and age, were euthanized on Wednesday.

“Gus was one of those souls who brought people (and bears) together,” said Sherry Samuels, senior director of animal care at the museum. “His behavior with other bears, young and old, as well as what he did on his own, made people smile, laugh, groan, roll their eyes and look at him in awe.”

Black bears typically live no more than 10 years in the wild, although the oldest was 26, according to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Gus’ body and cells will be donated to cancer research organizations to better understand and treat cancer in humans and animals, the museum said.

Orphaned like a child

The museum is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facility that is home to endangered black bears, lemurs, red wolves and more than 60 species of live rescued animals.

Gus arrived at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Museum as a 5-month-old orphan after wildlife officials determined he could not be released into the wild.

Known to staff as “Mama Gus,” Gus has raised several museum bears over the years. Little Bear, Murrayand the late Yona learned bear behaviors from Gus through his patient nature, the press release states.

“As I sit with this huge hole, I also have immense gratitude,” Samuels said. “Gratitude for how Gus has had such a positive impact on so many people. Gratitude to the veterinary team who cared for Gus so quickly and thoughtfully during his final days…

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