Donna and Kadie are both receiving special care after Donna, a 3-year-old black bear, reacted harshly to efforts by 23-year-old Kadie Singleton to feed her.
WINSTON — Wildlife Safari officials have moved the 3-year-old black bear that attacked an employee Sunday afternoon into a confined area and said employees will no longer have contact with the park’s black bears without a barrier in place.
The changes are in response to an adult female black bear named Donna biting an employee who was feeding the animals at about 2 p.m. Sunday. The 23-year-old employee, Kadie Singleton, is in serious condition at Mercy Medical Center.
Wildlife Safari Executive Director Dan Van Slyke said park officials have made temporary changes at the park and will likely make additional changes once a review of Sunday’s incident is complete. Park officials have no plans to kill the bear, Van Slyke said.
Prior to Sunday’s incident, Safari staff handled the black bears using a method called free contact, which means the employees interacted one-on-one with the bears. As a result of the attack, the bears require “protective contact,” which means employees cannot make direct contact with the bears, park Curator Dan Brands said at a press conference Monday.
More permanent changes to the bear enclosure may include use of hot wire, or electric fencing, to keep the bears separate from employees who are feeding the animals or cleaning the exhibit, Van Slyke said.
Throughout the last few years, park officials have made a series of improvements to other carnivore exhibits — including the lion, cheetah and brown bear exhibits — to increase employee and visitor safety. The black bear exhibit, which houses five bears, was next on the list to receive improvements, Brands said.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t in time to prevent this incident,” he said.
Donna came to Wildlife Safari about two and a half years ago. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife employees confiscated the bear from people who were raising the animal, Van Slyke said.
Confiscated bears pose an additional set of dangers to employees, but Van Slyke said officials are unsure why Donna acted aggressively Sunday.
“You have a bear that’s not as afraid of people,” Van Slyke said, adding that wild animals have some degree of fear of humans and are more hesitant to approach them.
Wildlife Safari employees haven’t reported any problems with the black bears in the past, Van Slyke said.
More details of the weekend incident were also revealed at the press conference Monday.
Singleton, who works as a carnivore keeper at the park, and another employee were attempting to leave the black bear exhibit after feeding the animals and cleaning the bears’ hut when Donna approached the employees, Brands said. Singleton used a cattle prod to move the bear away from the employees, but the bear turned around and grabbed the woman by the leg with its jaws.
Singleton used her pepper spray and was able to escape the animal. Singleton, who has worked at the park for about a year, suffered claw marks and cuts to her right thigh and left hand.
Wildlife Safari’s emergency response team was called to the scene and staff members were able to remove Singleton from the exhibit within five minutes of the incident, Brands said. She was then taken the Mercy Medical Center.
Singleton appears to be in good spirits and should make a full recovery, Brands said.
• You can reach reporter Marissa Harshman at 957-4202 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.