Staff at the Ecomuseum in Ste. Anne de Bellevue have heavy hearts these days.
The three black bears that had been living there — a mother and her two cubs — all passed away in the last month.
"It's a big mourning period for us here," says David Rodrigue, the Ecomuseum's executive director. "All the staff here spent so much time with those animals."
The three bears, mother Suzie and her cubs Marge and Homer, were all well into their 20s — elderly by bear standards. In the wild, black bears generally have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.
Rodrigue says they were a popular year-round attraction at the facility, and every spring, their coming out of hibernation was a sure sign of the end of the long winter.
"They had built up a lot of notoriety in the spring, because bears are excessively good at predicting when spring comes," he says. "Their coming out was the best indicator over 20-plus years of spring in Montreal."