As It Happens

'She will be greatly missed': Bridget the bearded lioness has died

Bridget, the elderly lioness who made international headlines because of her mysterious mane, has died.

Oklahoma City Zoo lioness baffled her caretakers, made international headlines when she grew a 'mini-mane'

Bridget the bearded lioness died Wednesday night after suffering from heart failure. (Sabrina Heise/Oklahoma City Zoo)

Bridget, the elderly lioness who baffled her caretakers when she spontaneously grew a lion's mane last year,  has died.

The 18-year-old creature was euthanized on Wednesday evening after veterinary teams discovered excess fluid around her heart indicating heart failure or infection, the Oklahoma City Zoo said in a statement.

"Bridget recently became a global sensation when a story about her 'mini-mane' went viral," the zoo said. "She will be greatly missed."

Bridget is pictured before and after she grew a 'mini-mane' in late 2017. (Amanda Sorenson/Oklahoma City Zoo)

Bridget grew her mane — a feature usually reserved only for male lions — between March and November of 2017.

As It Happens spoke with the zoo's director of veterinary medicine, Jennifer D'Agostino, in March about the mystery mane.

"[She] doesn't even seem to be bothered she has a little bit of extra hair around her chin and her neck area," D'Agostino said at the time.

"I think this is just sort of an incidental finding and something that makes her look a little bit different."

The 18-year-old lioness rocking a dignified beard last year, much to the shock of Jennifer D'Agostino, director of veterinary medicine at the Oklahoma City Zoo. 6:36

The zoo later discovered the source of the mane — elevated levels of hormones from what was believed to be a benign tumour in one of her adrenal glands.

Despite the tumour, Bridget appeared to be in good health for her age.

'Difficult decision'

But on Tuesday, her caretakers "noticed significant changes in Bridget's behaviour," the zoo said. 

"She was lethargic and showed no interest in eating or training. The next day vet and caretaker teams observed that Bridget appeared to be in pain resulting in the decision to perform an emergency examination."

That's when veterinarians discovered the  fluid buildup around Bridget's heart.

Bridget the 18-year-old lioness has sprouted a miniature mane — a feature normally reserved for male lions. (Gillian Lang/Oklahoma City Zoo)

"Given her advanced age and the severity of her condition, the vet and caretaker teams made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Bridget," the zoo said.

'She was so beautiful'

Bridget's fans have taken to social media to mourn the bearded lioness, many sharing stories about visiting her at the zoo with their families.

"She was so beautiful and I know she will be missed by everyone there," one of Bridget's fans wrote on Facebook.

"My condolences to her keepers and zoo staff members as well as the members of her family that will miss her too."

Bridget leaves behind her pack mate Hubert, 6 and sister Tia, 18.

Bridget the bearded lioness, right, leaves behind her pack mate Hubert, centre, and sister Tia, left. (Gillian Lang/Oklahoma City Zoo )

Written by Sheena Goodyear.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.