Rowan Wild black bear Ruff dies

Published 12:04 am Sunday, May 12, 2024

ROWAN COUNTY — An iconic black bear featured at Dan Nicholas Park died last month after health complications forced his caretakers to euthanize him. 

“It is with much sadness that we share the news of the passing of our black bear, Ruff,” Rowan Wild said in a statement. 

Rowan Wild is a small nature facility located inside of Dan Nicholas Park. The facility is home to the Nature Center, T.M Stanback Barnyard and Wildlife Adventures. The center maintains a collection of live North Carolina native animals, including various reptiles, mammals, birds and fish. 

Through the facilities and animal ambassadors Rowan Wild strives to provide educational opportunities to the visitors of Dan Nicholas Park and other Rowan County parks.

Ruff first came to Dan Nicholas Park at the age of two, along with black bear Honey. Both bears resided at the Eugene McCombs Black Bear Quarry habitat for nearly two decades. 

“He was a favorite of everybody, visitors and staff,” Nature Center Supervisor Megan Cline said. “He has been here for 19 years. He came just shortly after we built the new exhibit.”

According to Rowan Wild’s Facebook post about Ruff’s death, “On warm summer days, Ruff could often be seen bobbing for apples in the pool right alongside the visitor window. At other times, you may find him snoozing in the shade or foraging for treats hidden throughout the habitat.”

Recently, Ruff had been under the care and treatment of the center’s attending vet team for a medical condition.

“Despite all treatment options, his overall condition continued to deteriorate,” the post said. “After discussions with the attending vet and with his quality of life in mind, he was humanely euthanized.” 

Upon necropsy or animal autopsy, large inoperable mass in his chest cavity was reportedly found.

The necropsy veterinarian said that “absolutely nothing could have been done about this mass.”

Ruff was an ambassador for wild black bears everywhere, offering guests an opportunity to observe and learn about his species in a safe manner. 

“He has touched so many lives throughout the years and will be dearly missed by many, especially his caregivers,” the post said.

Cline mentioned that at some point in the future, the nature center would be open to acquiring another bear. They do not go out and capture bears in the wild, though, so it’s a matter of the right bear coming to them. 

“That will be bears that come from other animal facilities, or sometimes nuisance bears become available, particularly animals that enter a campground,” Cline said. “A lot of places have a three-strike rule.

With those animals, they look for a placement, so Cline said that it will require connecting with resources in the animal field and seeing what is available out there.  

For now, the center will just remember Ruff and the lives that he touched.