Brevard Zoo turns to MRI for black bear Brody, hoping to solve neurological issue

Bear cub was discovered alone in Ocala National Forest in February 2020

Brody going into the MRI suite at Health First. (Image: Brevard Zoo)
Brody going into the MRI suite at Health First. (Image: Brevard Zoo) (WKMG 2021)

MLEBOURNE, Fla. – Caretakers at the Brevard Zoo are determined to get to the bottom of the health issues for a Florida black bear cub discovered in the Ocala National Forest a little more than a year ago using the latest technology to make sure he has the best life possible.

Most recently, the bear named Brody underwent an MRI at Health First’s Viera Hospital, becoming one of the first bears in history to undergo the scan, according to the zoo. It’s just the latest step the Brevard Zoo has taken to help its young resident.

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According to the zoo, Brody has been struggling with mobility issues since last summer. He underwent pelvic surgery and stem-cell therapy but zoo caretakers now suspect some of Brody’s ailments are caused by a neurological issue, which can be difficult to diagnose.

The next step was an MRI scan to get a detailed, three-dimensional image of soft tissues, according to the zoo’s update. However, getting Brody to the MRI machine was no small feat.

“Caring for Brody is going to be a constant struggle, but he’s worth every bit of effort,” Michelle Smurl, the zoo’s director of animal programs, said in February update on Brody.

The zoo animal care staff and Health First’s radiology specialists collaborated for weeks to make it happen.

On the day of Brody’s MRI, he was anesthetized in his habitat around 8 a.m. before being brought to the L3Harris Animal Care Center for intubation. Then his five-minute drive the hospital began.

“Two veterinarians stayed in the MRI suite with Brody to monitor his vitals while Dr. Pierre Bichsel, a veterinary neurologist from Animal Specialty & Emergency Center of Brevard, reviewed the images in real time. A keeper and a curator observed the procedure from an adjacent room, prepared to assist if needed,” according to the zoo’s update.

After the scan, the black bear was brought back to the zoo where he recovered without any issues. Zoo staff are reviewing the MRI scan to determine next steps for Brody.

Brody was brought back to the Zoo and recovered from anesthesia without issue.

This latest step to treat Brody is a milestone in his journey since being discovered in the Ocala National Forest alone and lethargic more than one year ago.

Brody in March 2020. (Image: Brevard Zoo) (WKMG 2021)

The hiker notified Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and eventually, after determining Brody’s mother was not returning, the Brevard Zoo welcomed the young cub because he was suffering from health issues and would need more care.

“Brody was in extremely rough shape when he arrived,” Dr. Trevor Zachariah, the zoo’s director of veterinary programs, said in February. “He was having coughing fits and lots of nasal discharge, and getting him to feed was a constant challenge. We weren’t sure if he was going to make it.”

Body was eventually introduced to share space with an adult female bear named Cheyenne but when he began exhibiting lameness in his hindlegs he was moved to an area behind the scenes to receive more round-the-clock care.

The zoo continues to provide updates on Brody’s care at BrevardZoo.org and on social media.


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