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RELEASE: Museum of Life and Science mourns the loss of black bear Yona 

For Immediate Release – May 23, 2023 | 9:00 am 

Media Contact:
Matt Pusateri, Senior Director of Marketing
202.445.3068 |

Photos of Yona 

Yona, a great black bear


DURHAM, NC — The Museum of Life and Science sadly announces the passing of Yona, a 14-year-old black bear who has been part of the Museum experience since 2010. Veterinarians at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine euthanized Yona on May 19, 2023. 

“After 10 hours of surgery, with no other options, the need to euthanize Yona was heartbreaking but clear,” Senior Director of Animal Care Sherry said. 

Several weeks ago, the animal care team observed Yona exhibiting some symptoms of discomfort. A veterinary examination at the Museum revealed that she had issues with her urinary and reproductive tracts that required surgery. Last week, Museum staff took Yona to NC State, where a team of more than 50 people — veterinarians, technicians, and students — worked to try and help Yona. Unfortunately, as the day progressed, the veterinarians discovered additional issues. Despite numerous attempts to address Yona’s medical problems, it became evident that there was no way to fix her condition.  

Born in February 2009, Yona arrived at the Museum from the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR), an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured black bear cubs. While at ABR, Yona was very interested in human contact and, as a result, would have difficulty thriving in the wild. Yona arrived at the Museum on January 15, 2010. 

“From the beginning, she was an active and somewhat silly bear,” Samuels said. “Finding her lying on her back playing with tree limbs or enrichment toys and apparently enjoying her time in our habitat were regular sights. Upside-down, feet in the air, was how I would mostly see her in the early years. Actually, on our drive back to Durham in 2010, she was lying on her back, feet up, half rolling in the crate, for the majority of the ride. Even as an adult, sleeping for her occurred regularly with feet up.” 

Yona will be missed dearly by staff and visitors. She leaves behind Mimi, Gus, and Little Bear, the three remaining black bears at the Museum. 

For more about Yona Bear and her life at the Museum, check out Samuels’ thoughtful and sincere tribute on the Museum blog. 



About the Museum of Life and Science 

Located less than five miles from downtown Durham, the Museum of Life and Science is one of North Carolina’s top family destinations. Our 84-acre campus includes a two-story science center, one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the East Coast, and beautifully landscaped outdoor exhibits. Our interactive experiences include Dinosaur Trail, Ellerbe Creek Railway, Hideaway Woods, Into the Mist, Earth Moves, and Aerospace, which features one of the largest collections of Apollo-era NASA artifacts in the state. The Museum is also an AZA-accredited zoo, home to rescued black bears, lemurs, endangered red wolves, and more than 60 species of live animals. Last year, the Museum celebrated its 75th anniversary and its ongoing commitment to Durham, the Triangle, and North Carolina communities. To learn more, visit