The Assiniboine Park Zoo is mourning the loss of one of its beloved polar bears.
Aurora, who has been at the zoo since 2013, died Tuesday during a routine dental examination, zoo officials announced Thursday.
“This is a very very sad time for all our zookeepers,” said Grant Furniss, senior director of zoological operations for the Assiniboine Park Zoo.
“Aurora was a very loved bear. She brought joy to so many hundreds of thousands of people who came through our zoo.”
Furniss said the bear was put under anesthesia for the procedure and it was successfully completed, but then she went into cardiac arrest and never woke up.
Aurora was found as a cub, wandering near the Churchill Airport in fall 2013. Her mother was never found.
She suffered from recurring dental issues, most likely due to eating rocks and sticks while trying to survive without her mother, Furniss said.
Last year, she was featured on an episode of Arctic Vets when she was getting dental care.
The bear had received seven dental treatments up to this point, including four root canals, all of which had been completed successfully, Furniss said.
Without them, she could have suffered serious infections that could have been fatal, he said.
Though putting an animal under anesthesia is something veterinarians try to avoid as much as possible, in this case the bear’s quality of life was suffering, Furniss said. There were periods when Aurora would lose her appetite and seemed to be in pain, he said.
The zoo will do other tests but right now it’s unclear why Aurora didn’t wake up.
“That’s what makes this so challenging, because we don’t know exactly what went wrong,” he said.
“I don’t think we could have done very much differently.”
We are greatly saddened today to announce that Aurora, one of our female polar bears, passed away on Tuesday during a dental procedure under anesthesia. Aurora will be tremendously missed by our staff, visitors, and volunteers. More information: <a href=”https://t.co/MJZp5M7Ojh”>https://t.co/MJZp5M7Ojh</a> <a href=”https://t.co/nsuhwmYUkU”>pic.twitter.com/nsuhwmYUkU</a>
Aurora was like a mother to some of the young cubs that came into the zoo’s care in recent years, Furniss said, but it’s hard to tell how the other bears will react to her death.
As for the zoo staff, he said they are heartbroken.
“You do form a bond with them, so it’s been tough.”
WATCH | Aurora the polar bear as a cub: