Bear fatally shot after escaping exhibit at Jacksonville zoo, attacking keeper

Zoo staff fatally shot an American black bear on Wednesday at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens after the animal escaped its exhibit and “engaged with a zookeeper behind the scenes,” zoo officials said in a Facebook post. 

The zoo’s lethal weapons team responded to an emergency radio call about the incident, which occurred at around 5:10 p.m.

“Our highest priority is always the safety of human lives, therefore, the bear was shot and killed,” zoo officials said.

The zookeeper was attacked and taken to the hospital by Jacksonville Fire Rescue, according to CBS Miami. Their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

An ongoing investigation will be conducted over the coming days and weeks, zoo officials said, adding they do not take the incident lightly.

“It is profoundly painful when we have a loss of an animal, especially under circumstances such as this,” they said.

The bear’s name was Johnny, and he was 5 years old.

CBS News has reached out to the zoo for further information and is awaiting response.

Earlier this month, the zoo lost a beloved silverback gorilla – the oldest at the zoo. The gorilla, named Lash, was being treated for heart disease and arthritis “for quite some time,” the zoo said. His health deteriorated and the zoo announced he died on Dec. 1, just shy of his 46th birthday on Christmas Day. The median life expectancy for male gorillas is 33 years.