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On Thursday, the Saint Louis Zoo experienced a familiar feeling when an 'exuberant' Andean bear made an escape attempt for the second time within one month. According to a zoo release, this particular bear had "meddled" with steel mesh at just the right spot of their outdoor habitat, causing a cable to give way.
The zoo reports that Ben toyed with the steel mesh in just the right spot of his outdoor habitat, causing a cable to give way and providing him with enough room to make his escape.
At the zoo, guests and staff were escorted indoors while team members worked to secure the bear. It took 50 minutes from when they noticed him running away until he was recaptured - according to zoo officials.
Zoo officials remain uncertain how Ben managed to escape his enclosure for the second time this month. But they do know that he managed to break through the stainless steel clips holding the mesh in place, leading them to suspect that this may have been his method of escape.
Michael Macek of Saint Louis Zoo told NBC affiliate KSDK that Ben is an inquisitive bear who enjoys exploring new areas. That may have been what inspired him to break through those clips Thursday, according to Macek.
Macek noted that the zoo has since attempted to fortify its enclosure by adding stainless steel clips with 450 pounds of tensile strength to the mesh. Unfortunately, he said, this wasn't enough to stop Ben from breaking through these clips once again.
He stated that the zoo would continue to collaborate with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Bear Taxon Advisory Group to find new methods of securely keeping his cage.
Ben, who has a tendency to escape his cage on occasion, was last spotted outside on February 7. That incident lasted approximately 90 minutes before he was tranquilized and returned to his indoor holding area.
After that, the zoo added additional clips to the mesh for increased security. Now it consists of stainless steel cargo clips with 450 pounds of tensile strength.
On Thursday, Ben still managed to break through those clips once more; doing so within less than half an hour of his zookeeper's lunch break, Macek reported.
On Thursday morning, the zoo is still trying to determine how Ben managed to escape again. But they do not believe human error was involved, according to Zoo Director Dr. Brian Kelly.
Ben may need to be transferred to another zoo. A large facility with plenty of room would likely be best for him, according to Zoo director Dr. Kevin Doyle.
On Thursday, Ben the curious bear escaped his habitat at the Saint Louis Zoo for the second time in one month, according to local media reports. The 4-year-old Andean bear managed to break through clips attaching stainless steel mesh to his enclosure door, allowing him to roam outside for about 50 minutes before being tranquilized and returned indoors until further notice.
On March 18, Ben the bear had escaped his River's Edge enclosure, so zoo officials added stainless steel clips with a claimed 450-pound tensile strength to better secure it. On Thursday however, according to St. Louis Zoo director Michael Macek, Ben managed to break through two of those clips and make off with some food and water - an indication that more attention needs to be paid in future security measures.
Ben was found 100 feet from his habitat on a public path and tranquilized before being returned to an indoor holding area for now. KMOV reported that zoo staff implemented their "Zoo Animal Emergency Response protocol," escorting guests and staff into buildings as the search for Ben continued.
Zoo staff are still uncertain as to the cause of this second escape attempt, but believe the bear was able to escape by interfering with the steel mesh in his outdoor habitat and causing a cable to give way, according to Macek.
At present, the zoo is seeking advice from an advisory group administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums about how to make its habitat secure without risking an escape like what occurred this week. Their top priority is keeping Ben secure inside his enclosure while continuing his enrichment and diet program.
On Thursday afternoon, an Andean bear named Ben managed to escape his zoo enclosure for the second time in one month. Zoo officials reported that four-year-old Ben was discovered about 100ft from his habitat. As per their "Zoo Animal Emergency Response protocol", guests and staff were immediately taken indoors while team members secured Ben, according to their statement.
The next step for the zoo was to tranquilize Ben, who is considered a dangerous species. This meant shooting him with tranquilizers that would put him to sleep so that he could be captured.
Although everyone was nervous, DNR Wildlife Biologist Bruce Barlow reported that the tranquilizer shot went off perfectly as intended. The tranquilizers were meant to keep the bear quiet while officers brought it down from a tree; five officers eventually managed to bring down the bear, according to Greiner.
Once tranquilized, officers placed a net over him and padding underneath to make it easier to bring down the bear. Once it was down, they removed the net and returned him to his cage.
Officers then took a step back, letting the bear rest before firing two more darts at it.
But the bear resisted, and officers had to keep firing until he succumbed. Barlow noted that the bear had an elevated metabolism and may have come out of hibernation.
Barlow noted that as human populations continue to expand, wild animals may increasingly enter urban areas. He advised people that the best way to protect themselves and wildlife is by making sure there's no food outside for them.
It's essential to be aware that black bears aren't always aggressive. In fact, they tend to be more tolerant towards humans than other bear species.
Though the incident in Washington Park garnered much media attention, black bears and other wild animals often venture into urban areas during this time of year. Furthermore, foxes, raccoons and opossums can also become lost during this transition period; therefore it's important to take preventive measures against their loss.
On Thursday, a bear escaped his zoo enclosure for the second time in one month. Zoo staff used tranquilizers to calm him and bring him back into its habitat; it took approximately 50 minutes for them to retrap him, according to a news release from the facility.
The St. Louis Zoo confirmed that Ben, who has been with them since 2021, poses no threat to people. He's an energetic and curious animal with a thirst for knowledge.
Zoo director Michael Macek reports the zoo is investigating what caused Ben to escape again. Last month, he managed to tear through clips attaching stainless steel mesh to his enclosure door frame, which have 450lbs of tensile strength.
Now that the zoo has identified what could have caused this incident, Macek plans to collaborate with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums on ways to prevent similar issues in the future. He's also seeking advice from bear experts to determine other potential causes.
At present, the zoo is focused on giving Ben all of the enrichment he needs and providing him with proper food. They will continue to monitor Ben's progress, and Macek said they'll make a decision regarding how best to care for him moving forward.
It's not uncommon for bears to have exciting adventures while in captivity, but they should never be allowed to roam freely in the wild if their history of danger or sickness suggests otherwise. When this occurs, wildlife experts have two choices: nurse them back to health in rehab or place them in an apprehensive situation and ultimately destroy them.
Therefore, the zoo has no plans to send Ben home anytime soon and he is likely to remain until either his natural behavior ceases or he poses too much of a danger.
The zoo must find another suitable habitat for the bear to ensure he leads a healthy life and does not pose a danger to people. They have already begun discussions with potential owners about relocating him.