Friends don’t let friends drink and play with bears. Or at least, they shouldn’t. A North Dakota man, however, didn’t get the memo, and he and his friend, both drunk, broke into a zoo and learned a hard lesson. Dave Shepard, 21, and his friend Cody Nelson Kage, 23, scaled an eight-foot-tall fence to get into the Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, North Dakota, after hours. Once inside, the two men scaled another fence to gain access to the bear exhibit. The area they entered was apparently a visitor area, which contains the bear exhibit. The exhibit itself has another higher fence to separate visitors from the caged area containing the bears.
The men climbed the second fence in order to enter the visitor area, then approached the enclosed bear exhibit. Once they gained access to get closer to the bears, they attempted to catch the attention of the bear and entice it to come closer to the fence so they could get a better look. Shepard, the 21-year-old, stuck his right arm through the bars of the cage and began waving to get the bear to notice. That’s when, authorities say, the bear not only noticed the man but also bit his hand. CBS News reported that Shepard was taken to nearby Trinity Hospital Emergency Trauma for what zoo officials say are “unspecified injuries” to his right hand.
Police said they were notified by the emergency room shortly before midnight that they were treating a man for injuries he sustained in a bear attack. They arrived and took statements from the man and his friend. Cody Nelson Kage was arrested and charged with criminal trespass, a Class C felony. Shepard was not arrested yet but will be charged with the same crime once he is released from the hospital.
The Roosevelt Park Zoo defended the bear’s action in a statement on Sunday, noting that the bears were secured in their protected habitat and didn’t do anything wrong. They only attack when they have a reason.
“It is crucial to note that the bears were in their protected habitat which exists for the safety of both animals and visitors. The bear involved in this incident was exhibiting natural behavior; they are wild animals and should be respected as such.”
The bears from the exhibit were observed and assessed by veterinary staff and, as of Sunday, remained on exhibit for public viewing, the zoo said. According to the Huffington Post, a hospital spokesman said Shepard has since been released.
The Roosevelt Park Zoo has been in existence since 1920 when it was established with a male bison from Montana. In 2011, a flood left parts of the zoo underwater with as much as eight feet of water, and the zoo was forced to evacuate all its animals for their safety. It took two years for the zoo to reopen.
The brown bear has “immensely long forearms and can break apart animal bones with one simple swipe,” says the zoo’s website. They can grow up to nine feet tall, and their non-retractable claws can measure up to six inches.
Adult brown bears are powerful enough to keep them at the top of the food chain, but a good part of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. They occasionally dine on other animals, ranging in size from rodents to moose. In spite of being unusually large, brown bears are extremely fast, as fast as 30 miles per hour, according to National Geographic. While not the most aggressive type of bear toward humans, they can be dangerous. They’ve been known to attack, often when they’re surprised by humans or if a person gets between a mother bear and her cubs.
[Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images]