Baylor Bear Mascot Lady Recovering from Successful Operation to Remove Mass on Spine

August 26, 2020

Judge Lady, one of Baylor University's two American black bears, is recovering on campus after a successful operation to remove a mass that developed around her spinal column. (Dakota Farquhar-Caddell photo)

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia

WACO, Texas (Aug. 26, 2020) – Baylor University announced today that Judge Lady, one of the University's two American black bears, is recovering from a successful operation to remove a mass that developed around her spinal column. The surgery occurred Friday at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) in College Station.

After her dedicated Baylor Bear Habitat caregiver team observed a declining level of mobility, Lady, 18, was transported Friday morning to Texas A&M in College Station for further evaluation. Her medical team – including Candace Tam, a 2014 graduate of Baylor's Department of Environmental Science – conducted an MRI, discovering that a new mass had formed along her spinal column.

Lady was moved directly into surgery following the MRI to minimize anesthesia time. The surgery went smoothly, with minimal complications, and resulted in the successful removal of the mass. Initial diagnostic tests to determine the exact nature of the mass were inconclusive, but further results are expected in the coming week.

"I am continually amazed with the exceptional care our Baylor Bear Habitat team and our veterinary team are able to provide on a daily basis," said Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, who oversees the Baylor Bear Habitat in his role as the Robert Reid Director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce and associate director of student activities. "When we noticed Lady's declining mobility, within hours we enacted a comprehensive wellness response plan to address the concerns, and less than 12 hours later, we had transported Lady stress-free and safely to College Station for the procedure.

"This sort of response time and access to world-class medical resources is unparalleled and I'm so grateful we have the chance to care for our bears at this level of excellence. We have kept Lady's health and comfort the priority. We remain full of gratitude that our community has the chance to care for God's creation with tremendous intention and heart. I am hopeful as ever that Lady will do what Lady does best and that is recover swiftly and continue to thrive with her sister here in Waco," he said.

While recovering from her surgery, Lady will spend most of her time in the privacy of her personal living space within the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat, a Class C Zoo regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. When Lady is able to return to the public section of the Habitat, visitors may notice her spending more time resting and irregular hair patterns on her back resulting from the need to fully shave around the surgery incision location.

Lady, whose formal name is Judge Sue "Lady" Sloan, was previously diagnosed with a benign cranial mediastinal mass, or thymoma, in her chest, found during a routine wellness examination with veterinarians at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences in June 2019. The mass is not believed to be related to the previously found thymoma mass.

She received a series of innovative, noninvasive radiation doses called TomoTherapy in late 2019 – a treatment that is believed to be the first of its kind done on a bear.

In May 2020, Lady's veterinary team traveled to Waco to conduct an examination on Lady's chest, taking radiograph images of her thymoma to monitor its size and check for potential growth. The initial report was encouraging, suggesting that Lady's growth had not expanded. A follow-up visit to the veterinarian earlier this month even showed a 20% reduction in the thymoma mass.

The comprehensive care model developed by the Baylor Bear Habitat caregivers will continue to support Judge Lady and Judge Joy as effects of natural aging occur, including personalized care plans to address each bear's specific needs. Treatments include supplements, dietary enhancements, modified physical therapy and targeted enrichment opportunities.

"I am grateful for the collective support we have received this week," said Matt Burchett, director of student activities. "The Baylor Administration, Texas A&M's veterinary team and the Baylor Chamber of Commerce responded with compassion, expertise and unwavering commitment to serve our beloved Judge Lady to ensure her continued health and well-being. Baylor University is committed to providing as many good days as possible for her and this week has demonstrated the high quality of responsive care we have developed at Baylor. We will continue to offer support to our caregivers and veterinary team as stewards of this significant responsibility."


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.