Bruno the bear to stay at ZooMontana; other bears likely to be moved

2011-05-17T18:00:00Z 2014-08-26T00:01:16Z Bruno the bear to stay at ZooMontana; other bears likely to be movedBy CHELSEA KROTZER Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

ZooMontana's bear exhibit soon will be down to just one — Bruno, the original bear who came to Billings from Knoxville in 2008.

The Associaton of Zoos and Aquariums revoked ZooMontana's accreditation on Monday, citing a lack of a long-term business plan and trouble between staff and board members.

Board president Ian McDonald was at the zoo on Tuesday calling AZA-accredited zoos whose animals are on loan to ZooMontana, as well as representatives of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

It's up to each organization whether or not the animals can stay.

Tina Rolen, assistant director of marketing at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, said they have no plans to take Bruno back at this time.

"We are comfortable with his overall care and that is our No. 1 concern is the care that Bruno receives," Rolen said. "He was popular here, and I'm sure he is popular there."

Bruno came to the zoo in April 2008.

McDonald said animal care is the least of the zoo's worries. During an April site visit, one of the AZA inspectors said the zoo had excellent veterinary care.

"They did comment how much is accomplished out here with such a small staff," McDonald said. "The staff puts their heart and soul into this job, and it shows."

Three bear cubs, Dolly, Lou Lou and Koda, and an adult grizzly bear named Ozzie, will have to move to another AZA-accredited zoo.

Tim Feldner, manager of commercial wildlife permitting with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said grizzlies captured in the wild must be cared for at an AZA-accredited zoo. It also is required that grizzly bears, which are an endangered species, be placed in an AZA-accredited zoo, Feldner said.

Feldner said he's been working with the zoo and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine where the four bears will go.

"Everyone wants the best thing for the animals," Feldner said.

The future of other animals on loan from FWP, including the bighorn sheep, is still uncertain.

"We are in the process of evaluating that on a day-to-day basis," Feldner said. "When we place an animal, it's on loan to the organization. It remains property of the citizens of Montana.

"We have a responsibility there to make sure the welfare of the animals is good."

Short staffed

Before the accreditation was revoked Monday, the zoo board was in the process of accepting resignations of zoo director Jackie Worstell and marketing director Daniel Lundquist.

Both were put on administrative leave as of Monday, leaving the zoo short-staffed.

Board President McDonald said an interim director will be named soon. In the meantime, members of the zoo board have been filling in on front desk duties.



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