British Columbia

Young girl bitten by black bear at Greater Vancouver Zoo

The girl stuck her arm through a chain-link fence when she was bitten, RCMP say.

Girl airlifted to hospital in serious condition, extent of injuries not yet known

The black bear enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo was temporarily closed after a young girl was bitten by a bear Monday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

B.C. conservation officers are investigating after a young girl was bitten by a black bear Monday at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

The girl crossed a safety barrier surrounding a black bear enclosure at about 7 p.m. PT and ended up in an area closed to the public, a zoo official said Tuesday.

According to RCMP, the girl then stuck her arm through a chain-link fence and was bitten. 

Paramedics were called to the scene, including two critical care teams and an air ambulance, said B.C. Emergency Health Services.

The girl was airlifted to hospital in serious condition. Officials did not release any more details about her condition.

The zoo said the child was in an area of the black bear enclosure that's not open to the public. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

A spokesperson for the zoo, which is about 60 kilometres east of Vancouver in Aldergrove, B.C., said its main concern is with the injured child and her family.

"The zoo team is deeply saddened and shocked by the incident that occurred yesterday," Menita Prasad, the zoo's animal care manager, told reporters Tuesday.

"I've been with the facility for 15 years," she added, "and I've never experienced something like this."

The enclosure was closed Tuesday as local police and conservation officers investigated.

The bear will not be euthanized, said Insp. Murray Smith of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.

'You don't want to get too close'

There are two sets of fences bordering the bear enclosure. The first is made of low, wooden posts and beams with chain-link fencing. The second, about a metre ahead, is a taller chain-link fence.

It's yet not clear how the girl managed to reach the second fence. Prasad said the zoo is investigating.

"If there are areas for improvement, then yes, we will make the necessary changes," she said.

Prasad said the zoo has staff on site to respond to emergencies. She declined to say how the girl escaped.

The black bear enclosure is surrounded by two fences. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The Greater Vancouver Zoo has about 600 animals, including several bears, lions and giraffes. The black bear enclosure houses three young bears, who came to the zoo as orphans in 2017.

Joelle Siemens visited the zoo Tuesday with her three-year-old toddler and said the attack won't deter her from coming back.

"It will definitely make me even more strict about following the rules of the place," she said. 

"You know they're wild animals and you don't want to get too close."

Jennifer Bauer, who travelled from Bellingham, Wash., with her four-year-old daughter, said it was "terrifying" that a child was harmed.

"You have to be vigilant with your family and with your kids because you can't assume other people will do that for you," she said.

Bauer's daughter, Emma, said she was still excited to see the bears. "She's not nervous around the animals," Bauer said.

The zoo said it's examining the safety of its enclosure. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

About the Author

Alex Migdal

Journalist

Alex Migdal is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. He's previously reported for The Globe and Mail, Guelph Mercury and Edmonton Journal. You can reach him at alex.migdal@cbc.ca.

With files from Tanya Fletcher and Georgie Smyth

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