Grizzly Murder
February 25, 2006 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Last Saturday, a woman and her four-year-old son climbed a fence to get a closer look at two black bears in the care of the non-profit Maymont Foundation. Bear bites boy.
posted by emelenjr (54 comments total)
Maymont officials debated and ultimately decided to euthanize the bears just in case, preferring to err on the side of caution. As it turns out, the boy's injuries were minor and it's not certain the bears even had anything to do with them. He didn't even require stitches. But Maymont officials didn't want to run the risk of burying rabid bears on their land, so before the test results even came back, the bears got dumped in a landfill. Of course, the test results came back negative, which was what Maymont officials expected would happen.

There's a lot to be said for a city that mourns a goose pair of black bears.
posted by emelenjr at 11:52 PM on February 25, 2006

matthowie/jessamyn: sorry about the bungled second link. Please fix? Thanks.
posted by emelenjr at 11:55 PM on February 25, 2006

Blame Stephen Colbert.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 12:04 AM on February 26, 2006

Never underestimate the power of dumb parents getting hysterical.
posted by xmutex at 12:21 AM on February 26, 2006

Christ. What part of fence didn't they understand? I think it's best, in cases like this, of letting natural selection take its course.
posted by Jimbob at 12:23 AM on February 26, 2006

Now will the bear get a proper funeral?
posted by rob511 at 12:24 AM on February 26, 2006

posted by rob511 at 12:26 AM on February 26, 2006

Climbing fence at zoo = incredibly stupid.
Two animals had to die because some dork can't process simple common sense. The kid was four, fer cripes sake! And this could have turned out much, much worse.
The dork should be required to pay the costs of the euthanasia, bear disposal, and testing, at the very least.
posted by cows of industry at 12:32 AM on February 26, 2006

The 'victims' should bear all expense associated with this event.
posted by NationalKato at 12:35 AM on February 26, 2006

I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and say I don't think those bears were in a proper, modern professional enclosure. Note chain-link fence at ground level, and note four-foot fence, presumably of similar design to the one that was scaled, encouraging petting-zoo behaviors. If the kid was used to petting the goats and such, the fence doesn't seem like it's intended to keep people out, so much. A proper zoo would have a moat (and bears can climb, anyway).
posted by dhartung at 12:41 AM on February 26, 2006

Agreed with NationalKato. Unfortunately, this is probably the best result of what happened. If one of the two had been killed their survivors would have probably sued the bejeezus out of the foundation.

As it is, I hope the foundation sues the bejeezus out of them.
posted by barnacles at 12:43 AM on February 26, 2006

Yeah they should have had a moat, but it's a bit of stretch to say that a chain link fence that looks like it's at least 8 feet "doesn't seem like it's intended to keep people out." After all, I think it's a pretty safe assumption that the fence at the petting area has a freaking gate.
posted by juv3nal at 1:20 AM on February 26, 2006

Does this top the iBook sale?


Right, then, we'd better keep trying.

- a Richmonder, born-and-raised
posted by armage at 1:20 AM on February 26, 2006

Note chain-link fence at ground level, and note four-foot fence, presumably of similar design to the one that was scaled, encouraging petting-zoo behaviors.

Yeah they should have had a moat

If they had a snow fence and a sign that said "DON'T FUCKING TOUCH THE BEARS" it would have been 100% that stupid bitch's fault. They're bears for christ's sake. Seeing as how the poor bears were going to be destroyed no matter the outcome in this, I wish the bears had killed both that stupid, stupid woman and that unfortunate recipient of her DNA.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:36 AM on February 26, 2006

Not only were they not able to tell which of the two bears possibly bit the boy, they weren't able to tell if either bear had bit him at all. The mother said a bear bit her son, but it's possible the boy's injury had nothing to do with the bears. So I'm not so sure the end result was the best result.

Here in Richmond, we have two dead bears, hundreds (thousands?) of people not only upset with the woman for being so negligent in regard to her child's safety but also upset with Maymont for possibly going too far in the name of safety. A potentially less severe route might have been for Maymont to offer to pay for the series of rabies inoculations the boy would have to take in order to fight a potential rabies infection. That way, the worst case result would have been the boy ending up with a few unidentifiable scratches he received while visiting Maymont and a sore arm from six injections. Lesson learned. He'll only do that once.

There was enough combined intellect—medical knowledge, knowledge of bears, etc.—in that administrative meeting to know that the chances of either of the bears being rabid were not very likely, yet I suppose the reasoning behind Maymont's decision might have had something to do with the danger of appearing too cavalier about the whole thing if they had done nothing with the bears and simply pointed their fingers at the woman and her son.
posted by emelenjr at 1:46 AM on February 26, 2006

"Christ. What part of fence didn't they understand? I think it's best, in cases like this, of letting natural selection take its course."

They? I'm glad you're pinning a share of the responsibility on the four year old there, Jimbob. Smart.
posted by nthdegx at 2:37 AM on February 26, 2006

Bears should have gotten their money's worth and chowed-down on the kid and his mom when they had the chance instead of just scratching them. What a rip-off.
posted by Pseudonumb at 2:41 AM on February 26, 2006

To all the bears reading this: in case of doubt, eat the human.
posted by blacklite at 3:09 AM on February 26, 2006

Zoos are generally bad -- most of them should be shut down or reworked as single-habitat preserves -- but if you're going to build one, you've got to build as if people are dangerous to animals: build so animals can't touch people, but also build so people can't touch animals.

yet I suppose the reasoning behind Maymont's decision might have had something to do with the danger of appearing too cavalier...

I'm sure the reason was to cover their collective and individual asses in the very unlikely event that one of their bears was actually rabid and that that bear actually bit the kid (which may not even be true). They did the math, figured they'd lose millions and maybe go to jail if the bears were rabid and they did nothing, but lose little or nothing if the bears weren't rabid and they killed them anyway, so they killed the damned bears, gave them dFA tests, and declared the kid safe.

This story ought to have been that the mother went the fuck home with her son (or took him to the hospital for rabies shots and whatever else he would get if a wild animal had bitten him) and felt like an idiot for being such an idiot.
posted by pracowity at 4:21 AM on February 26, 2006

To all the bears reading this: in case of doubt, eat the human.

But first, see here for instructions on what to do with the undigestibles.
posted by Gator at 4:36 AM on February 26, 2006

They should charge her for the replacement bears, too.

That mother is too stupid to have children.

I don't care for child protective services too much, but this is one of the few cases where I think a child should be put into a new home.
posted by Malor at 4:48 AM on February 26, 2006

It's outrageous they killed the bears. Totally inexcusable.

Anyone else watch "Grizzly Man" last night? Now there was a great study of a sad asshole who was completely deluded about bears. And himself.
posted by Decani at 4:48 AM on February 26, 2006

They? I'm glad you're pinning a share of the responsibility on the four year old there, Jimbob. Smart.

Fair call. Seems like I read about some nutcase climbing the fence to a bear / lion / tiger cage every couple of months lately (one guy was trying to read the lion the bible, apparently). Shame the climber had to be a kid this time.
posted by Jimbob at 4:53 AM on February 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

"It remains a fact that wild black bears have killed nearly three dozen people across North America this century, but this is no longer a personal worry. My chances of being killed by a domestic dog, bees, or lightning are vastly greater. Being murdered is 90,000 times more likely. I feel safer deep in the woods with black bears than almost anywhere I can think of."

"What are defensive actions? Those are fearful swats or nips toward people who behave like bad mannered bears. In developing methods for close-up studies and intentionally testing their reactions to common no-no's, we have been slapped occasionally, but we found that black bears are not prone to bite unless the person initiates the contact. No black bear has ever come after me and bit me. The slaps were not that damaging – usually ripped clothing and welts on the skin – nothing close to the folklore that a bear can disembowel a steer with a single swipe. Their claws are strong for climbing trees but not sharp for holding prey. Bears regard petting as an offensive act."

More about black bears from
posted by emelenjr at 5:09 AM on February 26, 2006

Bear Help Wanted - Progressive center for care and display of wildlife needs two independent-minded black bears immediately. Duties include, but are not limited to, visible display of all natural bear-like activities. A pleasant work environment, natural setting with many amenities, and low and unobvious enclosures all give us a very high satisfaction rating from our previous bears. Pay is scale with room and board included. Severance package available should termination be required. Inquire on-site.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:59 AM on February 26, 2006

encouraging petting-zoo behaviors

So...climbing a fence is a petting zoo behavior?

it's very confusing to be human sometimes...
posted by disclaimer at 6:06 AM on February 26, 2006

i think the world would be a much better place if more people were eaten by bears.
posted by teishu at 7:01 AM on February 26, 2006

How much bitter resentment, it's not like Osama took the Presidency...oh well !

The simplistic "you should have know better, bitch" referred to the mother is quite on target, she's an ignorant stupid fool for climbing a fucking fence with a bear behind.

Yet if stupidy or ignorance were crimes some would argue that all those who voted republican this round should visit a jail and remain there for a while. Other would argue the opposite to the same conclusion.

So instead of just blaming her for being much like you a few years ago, it would be a _lot more_ interesting to question profusely the woman and to understand what was her reasoning : she should become a subject of study, in order to prevent the repetition of such accidents and understand human errors better.

I wonder why there wasn't any perimeter alarm..probably the zoo deemed the cage to be safe enough. Kid safe ? I'd like to give a look to that cage.

Also, but it's my bitter coscience talking, the woman shouldn't be granted the custody of her offspring...or at least given a dozen hour lecture on risk evaluation, given that she most likely was in good faith.
posted by elpapacito at 7:03 AM on February 26, 2006

There's a lot to be said for a city

no, there's nothing to be said for richmond. it's still the most segregated city in the south.
posted by 3.2.3 at 7:33 AM on February 26, 2006

If the kid was used to petting the goats and such,

then somebody -- hopefully his not-very-smart mother -- should explain to the kid that bears aren't exactly goats. but then that'd would make the kid's (and, I suppose, the mother's) head hurt.
and as pointed out above, it's ironic that at this point a bear might as well eat the human, and be killed on a full stomach.
posted by matteo at 7:33 AM on February 26, 2006

There is a beautiful outlook up off the road in the hills beyond where I live. Despite a wall, a fence and a danger sign, several people get killed each year when they bypass the barriers and go further out on the ledge. I can't lose much sleep over these Darwin Award winners.

ps. I hope someone called Child Protective Services to have a visit with the mother.
posted by bim at 7:57 AM on February 26, 2006

We're being a bit too quick to judge - the mother hasn't told her complete side of the story yet. I can imagine the following possibility : the mother turns her back for one or two seconds, the kid's over the fence, and she scrambles over to grab him. They then get the hell back over the fence.

There's no real evidence yet that something like this isn't the case.

(Of course, in this scenario, the probability is that the kid got scratched up climbing and falling from a fence. In either case, as discussed, it's really doubtful the bears bit the kid, or even noticed his existence.)
posted by suckerpunch at 7:57 AM on February 26, 2006

Clearly a case of culling the wrong herd.
posted by zarah at 7:59 AM on February 26, 2006

Addendum : so, because the kid was probably not bit, the woman's probably lying. Still, I'd like to hear her side of things.
posted by suckerpunch at 7:59 AM on February 26, 2006

So the Pain of rabies shots given to a 4 year old was found to outweigh the death of two bears. (pain of 4 yo > life of 2 bears)

Two bears that were dependents or wards of the zoo. One wonders how that equation could be changed. What if it had been 5 bears? What if the boy had been 27 years old?

It is strang that we still have yet to devise a test for rabies that leaves the subjects alive.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:00 AM on February 26, 2006

Yo Gravy - well said.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:29 AM on February 26, 2006

Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:36 AM on February 26, 2006

An idiot teaching her poor little boy to be an idiot. Maybe she should be slapped upside the head...'just in case.'
posted by Sassenach at 9:52 AM on February 26, 2006

What suckerpunch said.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 9:57 AM on February 26, 2006

Very sad. Though we haven't really heard all the story yet and probably shouldn't judge...

But it's pretty hard to come up with plausible scenarios that don't make her a pathologically irresponsible parent -- I imagine that she'll probably lose custody of the child, unless some extreme extenuating circumstances are revealed, and rightfully so.

dhartung: The photo of the bear show what is clearly an *inner* fence, probably at least 10' tall. It's an inner fence because you can see that the ground outside the fenced isn't paved and has a tree growing through it, and we can guess it's at least 10' tall because it would appear we see one bottom panel at least 5' high and then the beginnings of another panel above that (which might likely be the same size).

I don't see the relevance of this photo at all. That four-foot gapped fence is perfectly appropriate to keeping a baby goat for a petting zoo. Are you suggesting that they allowed people to pet the bears? Or...?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:39 AM on February 26, 2006

lupus, do us the courtesy of reading the fucking article. The story said the kid got past a four-foot wooden fence, and stuck his hand through the chain-link fence.

Everyone in this thread needs to review attractive nuisance doctrine, which is very well established common law. I may agree that the mother was careless, but one person being negligent does not obviate the duty of care of another party. Anybody who owns a swimming pool should understand this.

An attractive nuisance is any inherently hazardous object or condition of property that can be expected to attract children to investigate or play (for example, construction sites and discarded large appliances). The doctrine imposes upon the property owner either the duty to take precautions that are reasonable in light of the normal behavior of young children--a much higher degree of care than required toward adults--or the same care as that owed to "invitees"--a higher standard than required toward uninvited, casual visitors (licensees).
posted by dhartung at 12:48 PM on February 26, 2006

"Grizzly Man"

Dude, that guy, imho, was clearly on a mission of Suicide By Bear. I find it rather unconscionable that he got his girlfriend killed with himself - she didn't seem to be a bear person at all. Also, I could be wrong, my Gaydar is not finely tuned, but I would bet $50 that guy was a closet case in deep denial. His statements about how easy sex was for gay guys just sounded a bit too much like ... I don't know, misplaced sour grapes or something. So very odd. Something not right there.

posted by beth at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2006

I can see a kid ducking under a 4ft fence and sticking his hand through the chainlink before anyone could catch him, dhartung. But according to this, the kid's parent (I can't find where it says "mother") actually escorted the boy up to the bear:

The boy and a parent - whom officials would not name - climbed a 4-foot wooden fence to enter a restricted area around the bear habitat on Saturday. The boy apparently tried to feed one of the bears an apple through the 10-foot chain-link fence that surrounds the bear exhibit and was bitten.

Doesn't sound like an accident. Sounds like an idiot who thinks the rules don't apply to them.
posted by jrossi4r at 1:10 PM on February 26, 2006

According to this article:

"The boy apparently tried to feed one of the bears an apple after he and a parent entered a restricted area by climbing a 4-foot wooden fence. The boy stuck his hand through the 10-foot chain-link fence that surrounds the bear habitat."

This wasn't an accident. It was a perfectly predictable result of this woman's willful stupdity and she ought to be prosecuted. Or fed to bears. Either one works for me.
posted by stefanie at 1:14 PM on February 26, 2006

I watched Grizzly Man a while ago and got the same impression about the guy, beth. It was so unsettling to see how he had convinced himself he was somehow protecting those bears (and the foxes, too).

My only Maymont story involves an animal bite, actually. On a school trip to Maymont when I was younger, I remember being in the petting zoo (that's where the goat is in that picture—perfectly acceptable for that kind of fence to be there and for people to be sticking their hands through to pet the animals.) Not paying attention to my surroundings, I had my back to the fence and I came very close to being goosed by an actual goose. The bird bit my finger instead, which I remember hurting a lot more than I expected it to. These days I avoid the petting zoo and head for the Nature Center instead. I could watch those otters all day.
posted by emelenjr at 3:27 PM on February 26, 2006

I cannot understand why the bears were put to death. At all. I've had post-exposure rabies vaccines, twice. Really, not a big deal. It's just incredibly fucking sad.
posted by apis mellifera at 4:49 PM on February 26, 2006

It's disgusting that the very minor pain and suffering of a child outweighs the life of two adult bears.

Fucking sick.

It's days like these that I understand the mission of PETA completely.
posted by teece at 5:17 PM on February 26, 2006

I've got a 4-year-old. There is no way he'd get over the outer fence and be sticking his hand through the inner fence, (with an apple no less) before I could catch him. If the parent took his/her eyes off the kid in such a place for the time required, they'd be negligent. I keep my son close, especially in potentially hazardous places.
If this parent did, in fact, escort the kid over the first fence (or more)... well, I say take their kids away, fine them for all related expenses, and then feed them to the replacement bears.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:46 PM on February 26, 2006

Why didn't they euthanize the woman? Better safe than sorry.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:35 PM on February 26, 2006

I'm with bashos_frog. I have a three year old. I'll grant you that he's wiley and fast...but not so wiley and fast that I can't catch him before he could get to *bears* for gods sake.

If the woman really did escort him *to* the bears to give them an apple, then she should absolutely pay all of the costs of this entire fiasco.

It's tragic that they killed those bears and this moron will just continue to go through life thinking that rules don't apply to her or her spawn.
posted by dejah420 at 9:14 PM on February 26, 2006

People are morons. I've always had horses and you would not believe the number of people who think that it is perfectly OK to climb through your fencing, small children and infants in tow to attempt to pet or feed them. I've even heard of people putting their kids up on an unknown and unrestrained horse's back then stepping away to take a picture. Invariably they get irate when you go out and scream at them for, you know, endangering their lives and the lives of your animals.

Good strong electric fencing with a lot of warning signs is the only way to protect some people from their own idiocy.
posted by fshgrl at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2006

Its tragic that the woman is probably going to get off with no sanction whatsoever and go through the rest of her life having only learned that bears are dangerous and she hates them for what they did to her boy.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:17 AM on February 27, 2006

It doesn't matter how foolproof you make an animal enclosure, the fools still get in.

There's a big difference between little Johnny getting away from a parent and having the parent help little Johnny over a 4 foot fence so Johnny could treat the bear exhibit like a friggin' petting zoo. The low fence is there so that children too young to read the warning signs can't climb it, and as a reminder to adults and older children too dumb to remember just how far they should stand away from the enclosure. Deliberately putting a child in danger is just plain stupid, and the results of this parent's stupidity is that a zoo loses two animals and thousands mourn their loss.

It's simple. If safety standards were met in terms of both keeping the animals enclosed and informing the public of the danger of entering an enclosure, the zoo should be able to sue the family for the costs associated with euthanizing and testing the two bears, as well as the cost of replacing them.
posted by FormlessOne at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2006

yet again, animals suffer for the stupidity of people. In New Jersey a few years ago, "down the shore", one prom night, a 17 year old boy deceided to climb the fence around an amusement park at 4 am. There were signs all around warning of guard dogs, the fence was 10 or 12 feet high. The dogs did their job, not even mauling the kid, but ripping his clothes off. When police arrived, the dogs were lying near the boy, watching his every move. If he lay still, he was fine. But the police shot the dogs, for DOING THEIR JOBS, so they could retrieve the stupid kid. Amazing. And WE are at the top of the food chain?
posted by annieb at 5:59 PM on February 27, 2006

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