A North American black bear was shot and killed at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens after it “escaped from an exhibit and engaged in behind-the-scenes contact with a zookeeper,” officials said.
In a Facebook post, the zoo said the incident began around 5pm on Wednesday: “An emergency radio call was made and our lethal weapons team responded immediately.
“Our priority is always the safety of human life, which is why the bear was shot and killed,” the report said. “We will be conducting an ongoing investigation in the coming days and weeks. We do not take this lightly. Losing an animal is very painful, especially in these circumstances.”
FirstCoast News reports that Jacksonville Fire and Rescue crews took the zookeeper who was attacked to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
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A zoo curator told Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office investigators that he saw the bear “actively attacking” a zookeeper when he arrived at the residence. He said the attack continued while he waited for a veterinary team to arrive, so he “made the decision to shoot the bear,” according to the police report.
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After the shooting, the bear went back into the fence and died there.
Several workers came to help the victim before rescuers arrived, the report said.
News agencies identified the bear as Johnny, a 5-year-old North American black bear.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.