It’s common logic – and basic self-preservation – to not go around poking bears, even if they are inside the confines of a zoo. According to WDAY, a man was hospitalized on Saturday after allegedly breaking into a North Dakota zoo and taunting a bear. The Minot Police Department reported that David Shepard, 21, and Cody Kage, 23, entered Roosevelt Park Zoo after hours by scaling a fence. Both men were intoxicated at the time. Once inside, Shepard found the bear enclosure and tried to get the animals’ attention by sticking his arm through the safety bars. The police report stated that Shepard was bitten in the hand and transported to an emergency room.
Zoo Director Becky Dewitz says that while she hopes that Shepard makes a speedy recovery, she is also astounded why the two men would attempt to taunt the bears. In the end, Dewitz says that poor decision-making is responsible for the man’s injuries.
“I think that people sometimes think that just because they [bears] are in captivity they are somehow not a wild animal. But they are wild animals,” Dewitz told KX News. “They have natural behaviors, they’re going to have curiosity, and in this situation they’re protecting their habitat – that is their protected home, and they felt threatened, and they also felt scared, I’m sure.”
Zoo veterinarians are currently putting the bears under surveillance to see if their behaviors have been altered. Encounters with humans, especially one that ends in a confrontation, places a lot of stress on the animals and can cause new, worrying behaviors to develop.
As for Shepard and Kage, police say they will be charged with criminal trespass. The extent of Shepard’s injuries is not yet known.
Here is a animated recreation of the events: