Huckleberry, the 4-year-old grizzly bear, recently had an examination with his veterinarian and animal care team to perform an annual checkup on his right ankle.
Keepers first noticed Huckleberry walking on his tippy toes and avoiding putting his heel on the ground in 2020. After a diagnostic exam, Northwest Trek’s head veterinarian Dr. Allison Case determined that Huckleberry had developed moderate arthritis in his ankle. Since then, he’s been treated with anti-inflammatory medications and joint supplements as needed.
Dr. Case scheduled an annual examination to perform another in-depth check this fall to provide further treatment for the bear.
“X-rays show Huckleberry’s arthritis has worsened,” said Dr. Case. “I invited a colleague to perform advanced treatment within the impacted joint.”
Dr. Sarah Owens, a joint specialist, injected a long-acting gel into Huckleberry’s ankle. The gel is a cutting-edge technology meant to cushion his ankle and help him feel more comfortable, explained Dr. Owens.
Other than arthritis, Dr. Case says Huckleberry is a very healthy bear.
It took multiple people to move the grizzly bear to just a few feet away in the den, where he’d be provided more support on thick, soft pads during his exam.
The team got to work, checking Huckleberry’s eyes, ears, and mouth, trimming his nails, and performing a complete physical exam.
Meanwhile, veterinary technician Tracy was busy monitoring the bear patient, collecting blood samples, and administering needed vaccines.
While evaluating the radiographs, head veterinarian Dr. Case shared the images with joint specialist Dr. Owens.
Once they finished the exam, the animal care team moved Huckleberry to a soft bed of hay for his recovery.
Hawthorne, out in his habitat, was peeking inside his den, curiously watching as keepers and veterinary staff circled his buddy Huckleberry, who was laying anesthetized on the den floor.
After recovery, Huckleberry was allowed back outside with Hawthorne, walking around normally, with minimal change in gait.
You can catch him playing with Hawthorne this fall in his habitat.
Huckleberry and Hawthorne were orphaned as cubs in the wild: Huckleberry in Montana and Hawthorne in Alaska. Neither would have survived without their mothers. Read their stories here.