Bear is shot and killed at Florida zoo after escaping its enclosure through an open door and attacking a zookeeper who was rushed to hospital with wounds to her head, back and legs
- A zookeeper at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens was attacked by a bear and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment to the injuries she received
- According to the zoo, the bear, named Jonny, managed to escape its enclosure at around 5:10pm and had an encounter with the 35-year-old keeper
- Staff members arrived on the scene within seconds and a lethal weapons team was forced to shoot the bear in order to protect the keeper’s life
- Jonny, a five-year-old American Black Bear, died as a result of the shooting
- Zoo is currently investigating how the bear managed to escape its enclosure and reviewing protocols to ensure that they were followed
A bear which had spent almost his entire life at a Florida zoo managed to escape his enclosure and attacked a female zookeeper before being fatally shot by workers that had cared for him.
The bear named Jonny escaped from a behind-the-scenes area away from the public part of the zoo just after 5pm on Wednesday at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens after a door to his enclosure had been left open.
‘The bear came out of the opened gate and went directly’ to the zookeeper, who was then attacked a police report stated.
The zookeeper called out for help. ‘The help call was heard by another team member who was close by who made the emergency call to initiate the weapons team,’ Kelly Rouillard said to News4Jax.
A zookeeper at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens was attacked byJonny, a five-year-old North American black bear that had been at the zoo since 2017, pictured in a file photo above
‘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,’ said Kelly Rouillard
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue crews took the 35-year-old zookeeper who was attacked to a hospital for treatment after suffering lacerations on her head, back and thighs, although her injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Multiple workers then moved in to assist the victim until rescue workers arrived, the report said.
One witness explained to police that she joined zoo coworkers and started throwing objects at the bear to try and get him away from the zookeeper.
A zoo curator told Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office investigators that when he arrived at the habitat he saw the bear ‘actively attacking’ the zookeeper.
He said the attack continued as they waited for the veterinarian team to arrive, so he made the ‘executive decision to move in and shoot the bear,’ the police report said.
Staff members arrived on the scene within seconds and a lethal weapons team was forced to shoot the bear in order to protect the keeper’s life (file photo)
Although the intention was to wait for the veterinarian team to get a tranquilizer gun there was fear for the zookeeper’s life as ‘the bear continued to viciously attack.’
Four rounds were fired from a 12-gauge shotgun into the bear’s head, chest and back. The bear then went to the back of the enclosure, where he collapsed and died.
Zoo officials said in a Facebook post that an emergency call was initiated and the facility’s ‘lethal weapons team responded immediately.’
‘Our highest priority is always the safety of human lives, therefore, the bear was shot and killed,’ the statement said.
‘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.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue crews took the 35-year-old zookeeper who was attacked to a hospital for treatment but her injuries were not considered life-threatening
‘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,’ said Rouillard.
‘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,’ she added.
Jonny was one of two bears at the zoo and was a five-year-old North American black bear who had been at the attraction since 2017.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Captive Wildlife Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are now investigating the incident.