Baylor Bear Mascot Lady Progressing to Next Phase of Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan

Judge Lady
Judge Lady, one of the University’s two beloved American black bears, will be progressing to the next phase of her recovery and rehabilitation from a successful operation last August to remove a cyst that developed around her spinal column. Marked improvements in Lady’s health, strength and mobility will allow her to begin a gradual return to the public portion of the Baylor Bear Habitat for additional rehabilitation sessions. (Dakota Farquhar-Caddell/Baylor University)
Jan. 11, 2021

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (Jan. 11, 2021) – Baylor University announced today that Judge Lady, one of the University’s two beloved American black bears, is progressing to the next phase of her recovery and rehabilitation from a successful operation to remove a cyst that developed around her spinal column. The surgery occurred in August 2020 at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) in College Station.

Under the close and loving watch of her dedicated caregiver team, Lady, 18, has steadily progressed through the first few phases of her recovery plan primarily in the privacy of her personal living space within the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat, a Class C Zoo regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The marked improvement of Lady’s health, strength and mobility allows her to move to the next phase of recovery – a gradual return to the public portion of the Baylor Bear Habitat for additional rehabilitation sessions. Public access will be closed initially as Lady returns to the Habitat, allowing her caregivers to monitor her health and mitigate any potential stress.

“Lady has made an amazing recovery,” said Sharman Hoppes, DVM, exotic animal veterinarian from Texas Avian & Exotic Hospital and professor emerita in zoological medicine at Texas A&M. “It’s so exciting to get her back into her outdoor enclosure.”

Visitors may notice irregular hair growth along her spine, as her thick coat of fur continues to grow back following her surgery to remove the cyst. Although her mobility has improved, visitors may also notice a slight catch in her gait. Her caregiver team continues to monitor her progress and is following the vet-recommended rehabilitation plan.

Over the past few months, Lady’s trips to the Baylor Bear Habitat’s off-campus, secondary facility have increased in frequency to allow her additional opportunities to reacclimate to natural activities, like foraging and exploring.

Her physical therapy has included the use of small “hurdles” that encourage strengthening muscles in her rear legs and a hay bale “maze” that encourages lateral movements. As always, specialized enrichments keep her brain stimulated and encourage these natural habits and activities.

After Lady’s health, strength and stamina progress to a suitable mark, both Lady and her sister, Joy, 19, will return to a normal routine in the public portion of the Baylor Bear Habitat.

“Providing care for a large exotic animal is always a challenge, especially in a case like this, where the post-operative care has been extensive and long term,” Dr. Hoppes said. “The dedicated staff at Baylor have been wonderful to work with. Lady still has some work ahead of her, but I know that she will get the very best care possible.”

Lady, whose formal name is Judge Sue “Lady” Sloan, was diagnosed in June 2019 with a benign cranial mediastinal mass, or thymoma, in her chest, found during a routine wellness examination with veterinarians at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

She underwent an innovative, noninvasive radiation treatment called TomoTherapy in August 2019 and again in December 2019 – a treatment that is believed to be the first of its kind done on a bear.

Follow-up radiograph imaging has remained encouraging, suggesting that Lady’s thymoma has not expanded. A follow-up visit to the veterinarian in the fall even showed a 20% reduction in the growth’s mass.

Having already surpassed the life expectancy of wild American black bears, her thymoma and other signs of natural aging have continued to be managed through a unique, personalized care plan.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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