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Crystal’s clear evidence

Tuesday, 5th of May: A shocked silence as the digital image came into view. Crystal, our elderly bear rescued in October 2000, was lying on the X-ray table, having had images taken of her arthritic hips and spine.

There, as clear as her namesake, was the outline of three hypodermic needles lodged in her right hip and one lodged in her left, with the points of the needles piercing deep into her flesh. 

This was the first time that Vet Director Heather and team had X-rayed her with our new piece of equipment. It wasn’t hard to put two and two together to come up with the shocking truth that the farmer, way back in the 1990s, had seen a sick bear on his hands and had jabbed her so viciously with the syringes, likely containing inappropriate antibiotics, that they snapped and broke off in her body, migrating deeply into her muscle. 

The antibiotics were given not out of compassion, but in fear that the farmer would lose a valuable resource if she died of infection associated with her purulent catheter.

And so another piece of evidence comes to light as we reflect on this poor bear’s life on the farm. Declawed, detoothed and with the scars of a catheter that poked out from her abdomen and was forced under her skin, exiting at her hip – all to keep the bile extraction site as far away from her dangerous head end as possible.

Because of the traumatic and horribly invasive surgery required to remove them – and because Heather knows that the arthritis medication Crystal is already taking, is adequately managing any discomfort she might otherwise be feeling – these needles, ranging in length from 1cm to 3cm, will stay where they are until the sad day we all gather to say a final farewell to this brave and trusting bear.

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