Woman Severely Injured After Trying To Pet Black Bear

A woman has been severely injured after attempting to pet and feed a black bear at the Wildlife Haven Rehab in Dade City, Florida.

Abner the bear, a 400-pound black bear currently being protected by members of the Wildlife Haven Rehab, bit the woman, identified as Virginia Riggs, in the arm. She was sent to Tampa General Hospital after sustaining injuries. She is currently in a stable position, according to medical attendees.

According to WTSP.com, Riggs, who was visiting the facility to adopt two black birds, was being toured by the rehab co-owner, Beth Ritch, when they stopped by the cage of Abner the bear. Riggs then stuck her arm inside the cage, presumably in an attempt to pet or feed the black bear. She was immediately attacked by Abner.

John Arche, another co-owner, rushed to Riggs’ aide. He described the bear’s assault on the visitor a terrible sight.

The bear believed to be Abner, with the co-owners of the wildlife rehab facility.
The bear, believed to be Abner, with the rehab co-owner Beth Ritch

Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say the cage of Abner the bear was properly inspected before giving the rehab permission to protect the bear within its premises. Baryl Martin says the incident may have been influenced by a “momentary lapse in judgement.”

According to their website, Wildlife Haven Rehab was founded as an organization “devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of Florida wildlife.” Their mission states that they aim “[T]o offer emergency rescue services along with compassionate and comprehensive rehabilitative care to abused, orphaned, sick, or injured wildlife and to provide adequate preparation for an easy transition back to the wild. Permanently impaired wildlife is provided a loving home and safe environment so that they may live out their lives in peace and comfort.”

The institution took in Abner the bear after he was donated a year and a half ago. Abner is one of two bears in the rehab, which also houses a panther, an alligator, and several birds.

Black bears are usually solitary, but can be aggressive during certain situations. There have been numerous fatal black bear attacks in the United States during the past few years, one of the most recent being the case of Kelly Ann Walz. Walz was killed by her pet 350-pound black bear after cleaning his cage. Her husband, who worked as an exotic animals dealer, was found to be operating on an expired license, according to LA Times.

[Image from Valerie/Flickr and Wildlife Haven Rehab]

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