Bear Shot Dead at Jacksonville Zoo

Lethal weapons team was called in after it attacked zookeeper
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2022 4:56 AM CST
Bear Shot Dead After Attacking Zookeeper
Stock photo of a black bear in a zoo enclosure.   (Getty Images/Keegan Walden)

A black bear at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens was shot dead by the Florida zoo's lethal weapons team after it escaped its enclosure Wednesday and attacked a staff member in an area off-limits to the public, authorities say. "An emergency radio call was initiated and our lethal weapons team responded immediately," the zoo said in a statement. "Our highest priority is always the safety of human lives, therefore, the bear was shot and killed." The bear, named Johnny, had been at the zoo since 2017 and lived in the "Wild Florida" exhibit, CNN reports.

Zoo spokeswoman Kelly Rouillard said the emergency call was made after another staff member heard the zookeeper cry for help, News4Jax reports. According to an incident report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the bear came through an open gate and "went directly" to the zookeeper. Police said the 35-year-old zookeeper who was attacked suffered many lacerations to her head, back, and thighs. A member of the lethal weapons team told police that the bear was attacking the keeper when he arrived. He said he was waiting for the veterinary team to get a tranquilizer gun ready but as "the bear continued to viciously attack" the zookeeper, he shot the bear because he feared she would be killed.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the attack and the zoo says it is also investigating. "We do not take this lightly," its statement said. "It is profoundly painful when we have a loss of an animal, especially under circumstances such as this." (More bear attack stories.)

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