Toledo Zoo to get bear cubs whose mom killed, ate hiker

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    Two cubs of a grizzly bear that killed and ate part of a hiker in Yellowstone National Park last week will make a fresh start at the Toledo Zoo this fall.

    Yellowstone authorities killed the mother bear on Thursday after autopsy results concluded that hiker Lance Crosby, 63, of Montana died as a result of traumatic injuries suffered from a bear attack. DNA evidence, capture location, track marks, and bite wounds implicated the mother of the cubs in the attack, the park said. 

    The two female cubs faced death, too, unless a zoo would take them. “They are too young to survive in the wild on their own,” park spokesman Amy Bartlett said. “If we would have left them, they would have suffered and died.”

    Thanks to the Toledo Zoo, the cubs will survive.

    “We are glad to provide a home for these girls,” Toledo Zoo curator of mammals Randi Meyerson said.

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    She said she supported the decision of the park’s bear-management experts regarding the mother bear, as they are the experts in keeping people and animals safe in the national parks.

    “An important fact in the decision to euthanize the bear was that a significant portion of the body was consumed and cached with the intent to return for further feeding,” the park said. “Normal defensive attacks by female bears defending their young do not involve consumption of the victim’s body.”

    When animals like the grizzly cubs are orphaned in the wild, the nonprofit Association of Zoos and Aquariums works as an intercessor between national or state agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place the animals in accredited zoos.

    The zoo association keeps a running list of accredited zoos that have space to house nuisance or orphaned wild animals, Dr. Meyerson said. As the Toledo Zoo already had plans to include a brown bear exhibit, the association reached out early in the week about the possibility of taking the cubs.

    In her 15 years at the Toledo Zoo, Dr. Meyerson said that this is the first time the zoo has accepted wild animals through the program.

    “It was always our hope and goal to find a place willing to take them. No one joins the park service to kill animals,” Ms. Bartlett said of the cubs’ transfer to Toledo.

    When the cubs leave Yellowstone, they will arrive at a rehabilitation center for holding until the zoo is ready for them, she said. Exact details on when the bears will arrive in Toledo have not been released, but Dr. Meyerson said the cubs will arrive sometime this fall. She also said that the zoo is not paying for the cubs, though it will pay for their transportation.

    The Toledo Zoo has not had brown bears for more than 30 years, but the current staff has raised polar bear cubs and sloth bears, Dr. Meyerson said.

    “It’s exciting and we know that we are up for the challenge,” she said, adding that Toledo Zoo officials will consult other accredited institutions for advice on acclimating the new cubs.

    Despite evidence that the cubs were present when their mother attacked Mr. Crosby, Ms. Bartlett said the cubs are young enough that they will not be a threat at the Toledo Zoo. Their youth also will help them adapt to life in captivity.

    When they arrive at the zoo, the cubs will go through a standard quarantine process of at least 30 days, during which they can get acclimated to feeding schedules and handlers before they are put on public display.

    Contact Jillian Kravatz at: or 419-724-6050.