Columbus Zoo On Lockdown After Bear Cub Escapes

At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Saturday, a rambunctious seven-month-old female black bear cub escaped her enclosure, zoo officials confirmed. Around 11:15 a.m., the 50 pound, 2-to-3 foot tall bear cub got out of her habitat, and the zoo was then placed on lockdown.

According to Patty Peters, the Columbus Zoo’s vice president of community relations, the bear cub climbed up a 14-foot tall fence, managed to avoid a “hot wire” that would have given her a jolt of electricity, and went over the top.

The Columbus Zoo went into lockdown to keep their guests from possible harm, sending the guests to secure locations.

“They told everybody to get in, it was a lockdown,” Ken Kyle, a first-time visitor at the Columbus Zoo, said. “Some people heard maybe an animal was loose … an elephant, at one point.”

Kyle added guests had to wait over an hour before finding out what happened.

“It is dangerous,” he said. “Especially with kids. The safety precautions they took… definitely worth it.”

Around 11:30 a.m., veterinarians sedated the cub with a dart, crated her and took her to sleeping quarters.

“These are 7-month-old cubs that weigh 50-to-60 pounds,” said Lewis Greene, the Zoo’s Senior Vice President for Animal Care and Conservation. “They are not what I would consider a huge threat. But, we train for this, regardless of whether it is a big threat or a small threat here at the zoo.”

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium issued a statement concerning the bear cub escape.

“At approximately 11:15 a.m., our seven month old female black bear cub breached its exhibit containment in the Zoo and gained access to Zoo grounds. The Zoo called for immediate lockdown of the Zoo which is our normal protocol. The lockdown was quickly downgraded and only the cub’s immediate area was considered on lockdown. All guests were moved to safety during the lockdown procedure.

“The Zoo’s Emergency Response Team went into immediate action to assess the situation, formulated a plan to tranquilize and secured the animal. At approximately 11:30 a.m. the animal was tranquilized, crated and taken to a secure area. Visitors in the park were moved to safe locations and were not in danger. We will provide more details as they become available.”

This was one of the first times the cub had a chance to explore her new home at the Columbus Zoo. She is one of two orphaned wild cubs, both female black bears, that were brought to the zoo just a few months ago. She was named Joanie after singer Joan Jett of the band the Blackhearts. The second cub was named Stevie after Stevie Nicks because the tips of the cub’s ears are “nicked off.” Stevie is believed to be about 18-months-old judging from her size and her teeth.

While Joanie explored her habitat, three animal-care specialists were guarding the area. When she began to climb the fence, the specialists attempted to keep her from escaping but were not able to keep her contained.

“She went a lot quicker than anyone anticipated,” said Carrie Pratt, curator of the North America exhibit.

The Columbus Dispatch reported the bear cub didn’t get near the public; instead, she remained in a grassy area between the bears’ habitat and the wolverine habitat.

Once Joanie was secured, the Columbus Zoo lifted the lockdown just before noon; however the zoo kept the North America region on lockdown until the second bear cub was also secured and taken into the bear building. The black bear habitat remained closed for the rest of the day, and it is unlikely to open until extra safety measures have been implemented, WBNS-10TV reports.

Zoo staff is expected to meet to discuss how to alter the bear habitat to contain the new cubs.

The Columbus Zoo hasn’t officially announced the addition of the bear cubs yet, and they weren’t meant to be on public display for zoo visitors. There were no human or animal injuries reported.

[Photo by Fotolia/AP Images]