ST. LOUIS — For the second time this month, a bear escaped from the Saint Louis Zoo.

Ben, an Andean bear, escaped from his outdoor habitat around 1 p.m. Thursday. The grounds were on lockdown while zookeepers worked to find the bear. The zoo has since reopened after the bear was located.

The zoo implemented their “emergency response protocol” after discovering the bear was missing. The zoo holds active animal escape drills at least four times a year to prepare for an event like today. Guests and staff were taken to several indoor facilities.

Ben (Courtesy: Saint Louis Zoo)

Ben was later found hanging around the River’s Edge, not far from his habitat. The escape lasted about an hour. The zoo staff were able to tranquilize the bear and secure the area, returning him to a different enclosure. 

A family who saw the bear roaming around freely, as well as the zoo director, described the incident. 

“We actually called it in,” said Drew Wilson, a zoo visitor. “They showed up maybe two minutes later. The bear was very calm the whole time we saw him. Just looked like he was having fun.” 

“The habitat we’ve had since 2016, and we’ve never had a bear escape from there until we got Ben,” said Michael Macek, director of Saint Louis Zoo. 

On February 7, the bear escaped his enclosure. The bear got out for about an hour and a half. He was able to fiddle with some steel mesh to get a cable to give way, allowing him to escape.

“He’s just very curious. Since the last escape, we actually added some stainless-steel clips that are used on cargo ships that have a tensile strength of about 450 pounds,” Macek said. “We thought that would do it. We added the clips about every eight inches, but he still managed to tear some of them apart.” 

The zoo will be working with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Bear Taxon Advisory Group to help secure his space. They are working on alternative ways to secure the habitat.

Ben was born at the Queens Zoo and was transferred to the Saint Louis Zoo in July 2021 as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Andean Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP).