JACKSONVILLE, Florida. — A bear escaped from an exhibition at a Florida zoo and attacked a zoo keeper before being fatally shot by workers, officials said.
The escape in a backstage area happened just after 5 p.m. on Wednesday at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
Zoo officials said in a Facebook post that an emergency call was made and the facility’s “lethal weapons team” responded immediately.
“Our highest priority is always the safety of people, so the bear was shot,” the statement said. “We will be conducting an ongoing investigation over the coming days and weeks. We’re not taking this lightly. It is extremely painful when we lose an animal, especially under such circumstances.”
Jacksonville NBC affiliate WTLV reported that Jacksonville fire and emergency services took the attacked zoo keeper to a hospital for treatment with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
A zoo curator told Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office investigators that when he arrived at the habitat, he saw the bear “actively attack” the zookeeper. He said the attack continued while they waited for the vet team to arrive. That is why he made the “executive decision to move in and shoot the bear,” according to the police report.
The bear went back into the pen after the shooting, where he died.
According to the report, several employees moved in to help the victim until emergency workers arrived.
News outlets identified the bear as Jonny, a 5-year-old North American black bear.