A private zoo in the Canadian province of Alberta is facing charges after a bear from the facility was taken through a drive-thru Dairy Queen in a pickup truck and hand-fed ice cream through the vehicle’s window.
News of the outing emerged earlier this year after Discovery Wildlife Park, located about 70 miles north of Calgary in the town of Innisfail, posted a video on social media showing a captive Kodiak bear sitting in the passenger seat of a truck.
The video later showed the one-year-old bear, known as Berkley, leaning out of the truck’s window, enthusiastically licking an ice cream cone held by the owner of a local Dairy Queen.
Amid widespread criticism, the video – along with a second one showing Berkley licking frosting off an ice cream cake – was taken down.
At the time, the zoo said the drive-thru run had posed no danger to the public, as it had taken place before the Dairy Queen had opened for the day and that the bear had been secured by a chain throughout the entire outing.
Wildlife officials in Alberta said that the zoo and its owners are now facing two charges. “Under the terms and conditions of the zoo’s permit, the charges are directly related to the alleged failure of the park to notify the provincial government prior to the bear leaving the zoo,” Alberta Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.
One count stems from the bear’s jaunt through the drive-thru, while the other dates back to 2017. At the time Berkley had just arrived as an orphan from a facility in the United States and the zoo allegedly failed to inform officials the seven-pound bear was being taken home nightly so that she could be bottle-fed.
The zoo’s owner, Doug Bos, said he planned to plead guilty to the charges, noting that this was the first time in the zoo’s 28-year history that it was facing such charges.
“We made a mistake. I’m embarrassed about it,” he said. “Every time we take an animal off the property, we’re supposed to notify Fish and Wildlife, send them an email, and we forgot to do that in both instances.”
He said he had been happy to hear of the charges. “I’m glad that they followed through with it because it shows how strictly regulated the zoo industry is in the province,” he said. “Because there are so many people out there that think it’s not, they think anybody can just do anything they want.”
Bos said that wildlife officials had not necessarily taken issue with the bear’s outing to Dairy Queen but rather the zoo’s failure to request permission beforehand. “That’s all we did wrong,” he added, noting that the bears have been taken off the property many times for a range of reasons.
“We’ve done lots of TV commercials, Super Bowl commercials with bears and food … Some of them the bear was in a grocery store and wandered up and down the aisles.”
He emphazised the difference between bears in the wild and the zoo’s bears, describing those in the facility as hand-raised and well-trained.
At one point the zoo’s bears had even learned to pee in a cup, he said, in order to participate in a Scottish veterinarian’s study aimed at measuring baseline norms for bears. “These bears aren’t just your average bear that we go snag out of the wild and do this.”
In light of the incident, provincial officials said they had also revised the conditions of the zoo’s permit. The facility will now be required to provide more details when requesting permission to transport animals and will have to keep the animals in a cage, crate or kennel during transport.