As The Post has explained, the cubs likely would have also been euthanized if officials had been unable to send them to an adequate facility.
The cubs were placed at Toledo through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit that helps to place animals from the wild into accredited zoos. Those zoos, like Toledo’s, don’t breed any black or brown bears they have in captivity. Instead, any room in their facilities dedicated to those species go to animals that are rescued from the wild, Meyerson said. Toledo was one of a few zoos that the AZA knew might have room for the pair of cubs, and the only one that was able to make space for them quickly.
The Toledo Zoo was planning on opening a new brown bear exhibit some time in the next few years, Meyerson said, meaning that the zoo had already taken steps to accept rescued bears from the wild.
The mother bear was captured hours after the body of Lance Crosby, 63, was found in the park. A DNA analysis of bear hair found near Crosby confirmed that the adult grizzly was involved in the deadly attack, park officials said. They ruled out the possibility that the bear attacked Crosby in defense of its cubs, because “normal defensive attacks by female bears defending their young do not involve consumption of the victim’s body,” park officials said in a statement Thursday.
When asked about the park’s decision to euthanize the cubs’ mother, Meyerson said the Toledo Zoo “support[s] that they’re the experts in this.”
“These are hard decisions, believe me. No one wants this to happen,” Meyerson said. “They have a very hard job.” Meyerson, echoing a separate statement from park officials, added that the park has to balance the preservation of the wildlife there with the safety of its visitors.
The number of brown and black bears placed into zoos from the wild varies year to year. Last year, no bears were rescued. The year before, there were two, Meyerson said. Usually, rescued bears are cubs, but occasionally the AZA places rescued adult bears.
Although park officials believe the cubs were present when their mother killed and fed from the hiker, the zoo believes that the bears are young enough to pose no threat to the zoo.
Once the bears arrive some time in the next month or two, they’ll go into quarantine out of the public eye for 30-60 days, the zoo said, in order to acclimate to life there. Some time after that, they’ll move into an existing empty exhibit. The process could take several months.
Although the zoo isn’t sure exactly how long it will take before the bears are ready to move to their permanent homes, Meyerson noted, “We are very fortunate that it’s two, so they have each other to play with.”
This post has been updated with statements from the Toledo Zoo.