Loading articles...

Zoocheck calls for strong message from Alberta on ice-cream-eating bear

Last Updated Jan 19, 2018 at 3:40 pm PST

A Kodiak bear is fed ice cream in a Dairy Queen drive-thru in a screengrab from a video posted to Facebook by the Discovery Wildlife Park. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Discovery Wildlife Park MANDATORY CREDIT

A wildlife protection charity says it hopes the provincial government sends a strong message as it investigates a central Alberta zoo that took one of its bears through a drive-thru for ice cream.

A video, posted on social media earlier this week by the Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail, showed a one-year-old captive bear named Berkley leaning out a truck’s window and being hand-fed ice cream by the owner of the local Dairy Queen. The video has since been removed.

The province has begun two investigations into the video after bear experts called it irresponsible and disrespectful — although a zoo trainer defended it as educational and done “on purpose for a purpose.”

Zoocheck spokesman Rob Laidlaw said the province needs to make sure a similar “stunt” never happens again.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s entirely irresponsible,” he said Friday. “(The province) should be looking at this and sending a message to anybody else who might be contemplating this type of activity that it’s not appropriate and make sure there are repercussions for doing this.”

The investigation will look at the video and the zoo’s operating permit to determine whether there were any violations, and the province will act if necessary, Alberta Fish and Wildlife spokesman Brendan Cox said.

Serena Bos, who works at the Discovery Wildlife Park, said the zoo welcomes the investigation.

“That’s their job, their responsibility,” she said. “We totally respect them for that. They always look into any issues regarding animals. We’ve always complied with Fish and Wildlife, any of the inspections that they do with us and (accept) them with open arms.”

Bos said she realizes the video didn’t have the intended result, but said the bear wasn’t harmed. She added that the park will continue to educate the public about wildlife, but noted that they won’t do it the same way.

The province, bear experts and Zoocheck said the video goes against every message about the importance of not feeding wild animals.

“To me, it’s sort of cut and dry,” said Laidlaw. “Anybody who’s sensible that cares about animals or human safety should be saying that the province has got to do something to make sure this never happens again.”

A review of Discovery Wildlife Park by Zoocheck had previously raised concerns about the facility’s operations — including its kiss-a-grizzly-bear attraction and behind-the-scenes tours that allow people to walk with wolves.

Zoo officials said those activities are heavily monitored, and there are strong policies and procedures in place to ensure public and animal safety.