The black bear that bit a toddler at the Greater Vancouver Zoo Monday night will not be euthanized, the B.C. Conservation Officers Service confirmed Tuesday.
In a statement, Insp. Murray Smith said a black bear bit the two-year-old girl’s arm, after which the bear enclosure at the zoo in Aldergrove was shut down and the child and her mother taken to hospital.
The mother and her two-year-old daughter, Sophia, were celebrating B.C. Day with a trip amongst the zoo when something went terribly wrong.
Sophia has since been transferred to BC Children’s Hospital, confirmed Langley RCMP Cpl. Kurt Neuman. The child is in stable condition but still has a recovery ahead of her, according to the Canadian Press.
The zoo issued a statement early Tuesday afternoon that said the zoo’s primary concern has been with the injured child and family.
Sophia’s family declined to comment on the matter.
The 21-acre “happy place” that Menita Prasad has worked at for 15 years as an animal care manager, is different today.
In all of her time working there “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Prasad admitted during a press conference Tuesday on zoo property.
“The team at the zoo are deeply shocked and saddened by the accident that occurred yesterday and we are working on all fronts to gather all the information with all parties involved,” Prasad said.
“We can confirm that the incident occurred at our black bear enclosure and that the child was bitten by one of the bears while the child was in an area that is not authorized for public access,” Prasad stated.
In the far southeast corner of acreage of the zoo, three orphaned black bear cubs live in the enclosure, which has been cordoned off while police and B.C. Conservation Officer Services conducted investigations.
As of Monday afternoon, the area was still off limits to the public.
Greater Vancouver Zoo's animal care manager Menita Prasad gives an update on yesterday’s incident in which a black bear bit a two-year-old girl. Story: https://www.aldergrovestar.com/news/2-year-old-airlifted-to-hospital-from-zoo-after-alleged-bear-bite/Posted by Aldergrove Star on Tuesday, August 6, 2019
The distance between the first gate and the black bear enclosure, where the toddler was bitten, “ranges from four to five feet” between the barrier closest to the public and the enclosure, Prasad explained.
The gates are a combination of chain-link and wooden fencing.
“The distance is meant to be more than an average person’s arms reach,” Prasad elaborated.
Even zoo workers do not maintain close contact with any of the zoo’s “large exotics,” including its 2-year-old black bears.
“We recognize that there is always room for improvement,” Prasad stated.
“If there are areas for improvement then yes we [the zoo] will make the necessary changes.”
As well, the statement said Greater Vancouver Zoo adheres to the safety standards put forth by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) to ensure the safety and well-being of all patrons and our animals.
Noting that though acccidents can happen anywhere, Prasad tells parents at the zoo to “be safe.”
Visitors to the zoo were surprised to hear the news. Jennifer Bauer came up from Bellingham with her daughter Emma on Tuesday morning.
“It’s terrifying “ she commented. Bauer said the incident underlines the need for parents to keep a close eye on their children.
She also expressed concern about the bear being put down.
“I would be kind of sad.”
Aldergrove resident Devoni Wennerstrom, who was there with her three children, was puzzled that the child was able to get that close.
“There are two sets of fences,” Devoni related.
“We tell our children to stay away from the farthest fence – it’s just common sense.”
RCMP are in the midst of conducting an investigation on the matter, as well as B.C. Conservation Officers Service (BCCOS), said Neuman.
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Scary situation! My sister is the CO on this case and she was at the hospital with the little girl and her family until 2am and then back at the zoo investigating this morning. The good news is the little girl will be okay! https://t.co/Ya5O5Zi7Gi— Miss Shelby Stark (@MissShelbyStark) August 6, 2019
Police met with BCCOS promtly on Tuesday afternoon to determine “if a criminal investigation is warranted,” added Langley RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Craig van Herk.
Currently, the zoo has one grizzly bear and five black bears on its 21-acre property at 5048 264 St. in Aldergrove.
The zoo was open during its usual hours Tuesday.