Little Bear, a star attraction at Two Rivers Wildlife Park, died Monday afternoon at 1:45 p.m.
“It’s a complete shock to everybody,” said park attendant Jarrett Lewis.
According to the park, Little Bear, who was about one and a half years old, seemed to be ailing on Friday. He was taken to Sydney Animal Hospital where he underwent minor exploratory surgery. While he was expected to make a full recovery, his condition suddenly worsened and he died.
Lewis said staff can only speculate about the cause of Little Bear’s death. His remains have been sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, P.E.I., for a necropsy and it could be weeks before they know the results.
“We’re trying to come up with ideas ourselves,” said Lewis. “It could be the pneumonia that affected him when he was a baby.”
Little Bear arrived at the park in May 2016 but was in danger of being euthanized if the park couldn’t meet Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources regulations that required an 18,000-square-foot enclosure.
The public rallied behind the cause, donating most of the $40,000 needed to build the enclosure. The first phase of construction was completed a couple of weeks ago when a swimming pool was added.
“It’s not just the impact he had here, it was across Canada,” said Lewis. “We had a lot of people donating from the United States too, and even people calling for updates on how the new enclosure is coming along. He just had a brand-new pool open up to him. The first phase is done of his new enclosure and then tragedy strikes.”
The enclosure won’t be empty for long, however. Another orphaned black bear cub was brought to the park in the spring after her mother was electrocuted while climbing a transmission pole in Inverness County. The cub, named Natalie after famed Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, has been quarantined at the park and was in the process of being slowly introduced to Little Bear. Her sister, who was initially taken to Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, recently joined her at Two Rivers because the Stewiacke facility didn’t have a suitable enclosure.
“They were all going to be in there together,” said Lewis.
While Two Rivers was receiving an outpouring of sympathy from the public on its Facebook page, a formal ceremony will likely be staged for people to mourn Little Bear’s death.
“We have to do something big. It’s all just so shocking to us right now but there will be something planned for sure,” said Lewis, who added that the park recently formally changed the operating name of its campground to Little Bear Campground.
“Now it will be a great memorial to him.”