Shaking the concrete shuffle: Ricki stretches her muscles

Liz Evans Scolforo

Editor's note: This story originally ran in The York Dispatch on Aug. 5, 2015:

KEENESBURG, Colo. — As Ricki strolls through her 15-acre habitat at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, she at first appears to be limping. She's not, according to Pat Craig, executive director of the Colorado large-carnivore sanctuary.

Ricki, who spent 16 years as mascot of Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hellam Twp., has an odd gait, due to years of standing on concrete, sanctuary staffers said.
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

The 19-year-old black bear's odd gait is neither an injury nor a birth defect, he said.

Ricki's unusual stride is typical for a bear that stood and walked on concrete for a long time inside a small cage, according to Craig.

"One thing that we always notice (about) any of the bears kept in tight confinement ... and especially on hard surfaces like concrete, their joints tend to get arthritic and/or don't develop the same way. They don't get the chance to really exercise or run, or (do) some of the things they would normally do in the wild," Craig said. "So when they walk, they tend to walk with bent front knees and you can normally see it in the way ... they walk really flat, like 'flippered.'

"We get tons of animals in that have these deficiencies, and they eventually overcome them or improve," Craig said.

(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

He said he expects that will happen for Ricki, too.

"She's not in pain," Craig said. "So as she starts to really get out there and put some miles on ... we'll see muscles improve, and that will help her stance improve."

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— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo atlevans@yorkdispatch.comor on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.