Black bear breaks into zoo, gets a Fish and Game escort back to the wild

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Courtesy photo The black bear that broke into an Idaho zoo was caught and released into a forest in southern Idaho.

Bear breaks into zoo: it sounds like the punchline of a joke, but it recently happened at Zoo Idaho in Pocatello, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officers had a unique situation on their hands.

Early morning on July 3, a wild black bear was discovered inside the zoo perimeter by zoo staff conducting the morning rounds. The 120-pound, 3-year-old black bear quickly climbed a large tree in front of the black bear exhibit.

Fish and Game conservation officers arrived to find the bear perched at least 70 feet up a conifer in an area surrounded by concrete, metal cage materials, rock walls and asphalt pavement. Tranquilizing the bear was not an immediate option because a fall would be too risky from that height and in that setting, and the bear would likely be injured from the fall.

Officers instead set a culvert trap baited with doughnuts and syrup near the tree in an effort to lure the bear down. After several hours of waiting, the bear finally made its descent, and when it was approximately 15 feet from the ground, officers darted the bear to immobilize it. The bear was immediately assessed and appeared to be in good condition with no injuries.

The young bear was fitted with a radio collar to track its movements and marked with an ear tag to help identify it if it is observed again. The bear was released to a remote part of southeast Idaho on the same day of its capture.

Even for veteran conservation officers, who routinely deal with wildlife, this was the first time in memory of a black bear breaking into a zoo. But it was strangely fitting because Zoo Idaho is one of a handful of zoos in the country that deals only with native wildlife.

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