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Bear shot and killed after escaping enclosure through open door and attacking zoo keeper
Featured Image Credit: WJXT

Bear shot and killed after escaping enclosure through open door and attacking zoo keeper

The zookeeper was taken to hospital to be treated for her injuries

A bear was shot and killed after it escaped its enclosure at a zoo in Florida and injured a zookeeper.

The five-year-old North American black bear, named Jonny, escaped an exhibit behind the scenes at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on Wednesday evening.

The bear is said to have come into contact with a zookeeper who cried out for help prompting other staff members to make an emergency call.

In a statement on social media, the zoo said its ‘lethal weapons team responded immediately’ when the alarm was raised.

The statement said: “At 5:10 pm tonight, one of our North American black bears escaped the exhibit and engaged with a zookeeper behind the scenes. An emergency radio call was initiated and our lethal weapons team responded immediately.

“Our highest priority is always the safety of human lives, therefore, the bear was shot and killed.

The black bear was fatally shot.

“We will be conducting an ongoing investigation over the coming days and weeks. We do not take this lightly. It is profoundly painful when we have a loss of an animal, especially under circumstances such as this.”

The zookeeper was taken to hospital where she was treated for lacerations on her head, back and thighs. Her injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

A member of staff at the zoo told authorities when he arrived on the scene he saw the bear ‘actively attacking’ the zookeeper.

According to a police report, the intention was to wait for the veterinary team with a tranquiliser gun, but as they waited ‘the bear continued to viciously attack’ the zookeeper leaving the staff member fearing for his colleague’s life so he ‘made the executive decision to move in and shoot the bear’.

Four rounds were fired at the bear, hitting him in the head, chest and back. After being shot the beat went back to the enclosure and died.

The zookeeper's injuries thankfully aren't life threatening.

Kelly Rouillard, director of marketing for the Zoo and Gardens, told News4Jax: “Our animal care team has cared for these animals for years, so this is something that is very disheartening for us to have to face a situation like this.

“In these types of situations, be it in a zoo or in the wild, this is standard operating procedure when it comes to protecting the safety of humans so of course with a bear of that size, the first thing is that we're protecting a human's life.”

The incident is being investigated by The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Captive Wildlife Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Topics: US News, Animals