Team of Specialists Set to Help Polar Bear, Nora
SALT LAKE CITY – Nora the polar bear broke the humerus bone (from shoulder to elbow) on her front, right leg Wednesday night, presumably from her signature style of roughhouse play. “She’s a very rambunctious bear,” said Lead Keeper Kaleigh Jablonski. “It’s not unusual to watch her head-dive into the snow without any hesitation. She just plays rough.” Nora is currently off exhibit as veterinarians assemble a team of specialists to move forward on treatment for the three year-old bear. Keepers found her Thursday morning on exhibit but unwilling to move. They monitored her closely for the next two days but Nora didn’t budge – not even to interact with her keepers, which is unusual. By Saturday morning, Nora made her way into the back-holding area allowing the Zoo’s Animal Care team better access. A full physical examination was performed Sunday, including X-rays, which confirmed Nora had broken her humerus bone, rendering her unable to walk.
Veterinarians consulted with numerous zoos, veterinary surgeons, radiologists and human orthopedic specialists across the country regarding bone breaks in young bears. It is noted at least three bears of Nora’s age have fractured bones in their legs from playing too hard. A large animal orthopedic team from Texas A&M, a human orthopedic surgeon from the University of Utah Medical Center and a veterinary anesthesiologist from North Carolina State University will be performing Nora’s surgery, Monday, February 4. The procedure will take the bulk of the day and will involve heavy-duty orthopedic hardware such as plates, screws, pins and nails. DePuy Synthes and Ethicon, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices companies, are providing veterinary equipment for the surgery. The 500-pound bear had metabolic bone disease as a cub. The Nora Team has analyzed the X-rays and believe Nora is a good candidate for surgical repair. Her bones will be assessed during the procedure. During the post-op period she will likely require additional anesthetic procedures for follow-up X-rays to see how the break is healing. Should the fixation break, she may require additional procedures. Either way, Nora will be off exhibit for the next several months.
Nora arrived at Hogle Zoo in the fall of 2017 to be paired with then two year-old polar bear, Hope. Born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the beloved bear then spent a year at Oregon Zoo before making Salt Lake City her home. Her fun-loving, playful nature – often called “silly” by her throngs of Facebook fans – have made her an arctic superstar. She’s known for her inquisitive nature with guests, putting all kinds of objects on her head and spying on her neighbors, the seals and sea lions. “Nora is one of the most special, most charismatic animals of our Hogle Zoo family,” said Dr. Erika Crook, Hogle Zoo Associate Veterinarian. “We have reached out far and wide to find experts to give her the best chance possible to get back on her feet. She’s in very good hands.” Nora is currently on pain medications and is in her back-holding area. In typical Nora fashion, she is in good spirits and is still finding ways to play.