Bear fatally shot after escape, attack on Florida zookeeper

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A bear escaped an exhibit at a Florida zoo and attacked a zookeeper before being fatally shot by workers, officials said.

The escape in a behind-the-scenes area happened just after 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

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.”

FirstCoast News reported that Jacksonville Fire and Rescue crews took the zookeeper who was attacked 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 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.

The bear went back into the enclosure after the shooting, where it died.

Multiple workers moved in to assist the victim until rescue workers arrived, the report said.

News outlets identified the bear as Jonny, a 5-year-old North American black bear.

No additional details were immediately available.

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