Homer the bear was known for her long life, gentle nature, and impressive appetite.
The 22-year-old black bear died on Monday at the Ecomuseum zoo in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, living to be nearly twice the expected age for her species.
“She’s a part of our history and just like the rest of our animals... she’s reached so many people,” David Rodrigue, the Director of the Ecomuseum zoo, told the host of CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Mike Finnerty.
“It’s difficult not only for the staff, but for people who live on the West Island.”
Homer was born at the Ecomuseum in January 1991, and Rodrigue says that like humans, Homer began to suffer from age-related illnesses, including severe arthritis.
He says veterinary staff became unable to manage Homer's pain, and made the difficult decision to euthanize her.
“When you’re a bear and you’re twice the age that a bear should be, the intensity of those problems can become overwhelming and that was the point that we got to,” says Rodrigue.
“Just like for us, beyond a certain point it just becomes too much.”
Rodrigue said staff and visitors held a memorial for Homer at the Ecomuseum, where she lived with her mother, Suzie, and her sister, Marge.
“She played a vital role in helping us convey the values and knowledge behind our educational mission. We can say that with her outstanding personality and impressive delicacy, Homer was able throughout her life to enchant staff and volunteers,” says a message on the Ecomuseum Facebook page.
Homer was one of three bears in the spotlight last spring when media were invited to watch the animals wake up from winter hibernation.
The Ecomuseum zoo is home to more than 115 species of live animals native to Quebec’s St. Lawrence Valley.
The 11-hectare West Island site currently runs more than 25 different programs for schools and the general public.