The Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, a USDA Class C zoological sanctuary, houses Baylor’s beloved American black bears Judge Joy and Judge Lady. It is one of the most visited sites on our campus, and our caregiver team uses every opportunity to educate visitors about black bears and conservation efforts that impact their natural habitat.
After a late 2019 diagnosis with a benign thymoma mass, Lady, 18, received a series of innovative, noninvasive radiation doses called TomoTherapy — a treatment believed to be the first of its kind done on a bear. Follow-up examinations and radiograph images in July of this year showed Lady’s mass has not expanded, even suggesting a 20 percent reduction in size.
In August, Lady’s dedicated caregiver team observed a declining level of mobility and rapidly implemented a comprehensive wellness response plan. They transported her to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) in College Station where an MRI indicated a new mass, unrelated to her previous diagnosis, had formed along her spinal column.
The veterinary specialists were able to successfully remove the benign mass, and Lady continues to recover in the privacy of her personal living space within the Bear Habitat.
The comprehensive care model developed by the Bear Habitat caregivers will continue to support Lady and Joy, including personalized care plans to address each bear’s specific needs as they age. These treatments often include supplements, dietary enhancements, modified physical therapy and targeted enrichment opportunities.
Early planning is underway for enhancements to the Bear Habitat that will provide greater opportunities for educational presentations and demonstrations and activities for children to explore around the space.