It was about midnight Monday when a zoo ranger spotted a young black bear scaling the 10-foot-high chain-link and barbed wire of the Knoxville zoo’s perimeter fence. A neighbor had alerted the zoo a bear had been seen in the Chilhowee Park area, zoo spokeswoman Tina Rolen said today.
A zoo ranger headed to the park area near its herpetology building and close to Chilhowee Park’s East Tennessee Discovery Center. The ranger saw the bear — described as a youngster weighing maybe 150 pounds — in Chilhowee Park. That’s when the bear scaled the fence into the zoo.
The ranger quickly called other zoo rangers and staff members, Rolen said. The first thought was to check the zoo’s own group of four captive black bears which lounge in the natural habitat Black Bear Falls in another section of the park. Zookeepers quickly counted bear noses and discovered that none of their bears were out and about for an evening stroll.
So zoo rangers and staff members began an early morning search of the park’s 53 acres...When zoo officials determined there was no roaming bear on the grounds, they opened the zoo.
Rolen said zoo staffers speculate the animal likely scaled a fence out of the park unseen.
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