CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) – Zoo animals aren’t typically famous for what they do in their free time, but the bear at the Carlsbad Living Desert Zoo is.
“I decided since other zoos paint with animals I would try to paint with her and that would give her something to do,” said Animal Curator Holly Pane.
Maggie, a 9-year-old black bear, is known for painting with her paws, but the furry mammal’s artistic work isn’t just a hobby; it’s her love.
In 2005, Maggie was found in a cage on a Georgia compound.
The cub was fighting to stay alive.
Her mom and siblings were dead nearby.
“She was in very very poor condition. She had pneumonia. She had sores all over her. She was dehydrated,” said Payne.
A rescue group nursed Maggie back to health.
She became a permanent Carlsbad resident when she was 4 months old.
Payne says that when she got the bright idea to use painting as therapy for Maggie.
“I thought she probably misses some of the human interaction, so I decided I would paint with her and she picked it up very quickly,” she said.
Maggie paints once a week and her artwork is sold at the zoo gift shop.
Payne says painting helps Maggie deal with stress she endured early in life while bringing joy to the community.
Maggie only paints in private.
Zoo officials say it’s too stressful for her to paint in front of an audience.