Zoo: Polar bears escaped; public never at risk

Posted at 12:23 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 18:25:03-04

CINCINNATI -- Not one but two two polar bears escaped their enclosure Wednesday at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Despite that, both remained fully contained and never put visitors at risk, according to zoo spokeswoman Michelle Curley. 

Female bear Berit and her male mate, Little One, "took advantage of an open den door" at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to a news release from Curley.

DON'T MISS: We guess why polar bears made a break for it

The bears "found themselves in the exhibit’s behind-the-scenes service hallway," Curley's news release said. "Keepers quickly secured the building and notified vet staff that the curious bears had entered the exhibit’s secondary containment zone."

There was never any risk or injury caused to any visitors or staff, Curley said. As a precaution, public visitors were moved indoors. The zoo has since been reopened, and all polar bears are now "contained and unharmed," according to the zoo's news release.

“Zoo staff followed protocols that we have in place and were able to safely return the bears to their primary holding area in under two hours,” said Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo.



"We take security very seriously at the zoo particularly big dangerous animals so there are a number of areas of containment," Maynard said.

In 1990, polar bear keeper Laurie Stober was attacked by Icee, an 800-pound polar bear. The bear chewed off her forearm and swallowed it. She was awarded $3.5 million in a lawsuit.


Full statement from the Cincinnati Zoo:

At approximately 11:30am, Wednesday, March 16, 2016 our female polar bear Berit breached a behind the scenes containment area but was never loose in the zoo. The situation is ongoing and under control. There is no risk to staff or visitors in the park, but as a precaution guests were moved indoors. Visitors are safe to leave the park if they choose. There are no injuries to animal staff or visitors. We are currently working on resolving the situation. As of right now, the Cincinnati Zoo is now reopen. Polar bears are contained and unharmed. Thank you for your patience.