By Michelle Watson, CNN
A bear at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida was shot and killed after it escaped and attacked a staff member Wednesday, the zoo said in an email to CNN.
The attack occurred about 5:10 p.m. when the North American black bear “escaped the exhibit and engaged with a zookeeper behind the scenes,” spokesperson Emily Long said in an email Thursday. “An emergency radio call was initiated and our lethal weapons team responded immediately.”
“Our highest priority is always the safety of human lives, therefore, the bear was shot and killed,” Long said.
“We do not take this lightly. It is profoundly painful when we have a loss of an animal, especially under circumstances such as this,” the zoo added in a statement.
The bear’s name was Johnny and had been at the zoo since 2017, according to CNN affiliate WJXT.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it was notified of the attack and its Captive Wildlife investigators are looking into it, according to spokesperson Ashlee Brahier Sklute.
“While the investigation is ongoing, releasable details are limited. When it is complete, a full report will be available by request,” Sklute added.
The North American black bear is on average about 5.25 feet long, and males weigh about 250 to 500 pounds, according to the zoo. The bear is part of the zoo’s “Wild Florida” exhibit, which features 2.5 acres of natural wetlands.
Last year, a man was clawed by a jaguar at the Jacksonville Zoo after he jumped over a gate and stuck his hand inside the exhibit, WJXT reported at the time.
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CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.