COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio (AP) - A bear owned by a man who used to offer people the chance to wrestle the animals mauled its 24-year-old caretaker to death during a feeding on property containing other bears, many wolves, and perhaps lions and tigers, authorities said Friday.
The bear in the attack southwest of Cleveland was not one that owner Sam Mazzola used for wrestling, officials said, a practice that brought him the wrath of animal rights activists in 2006. His license to exhibit animals had been revoked but he apparently was still allowed to keep them on his property.
A rescue squad took Mazzola from the attack scene Thursday night with an unspecified medical problem that Lorain County Sheriff's Capt. James Drozdowski said was not from any injury. Mazzola later checked himself out of a hospital and was expected to return to the property, Drozdowski said.
Brent Kandra, of Elyria, died Friday morning at MetroHealth Medical Center, the coroner's office in Cleveland said. He had been taken by medical helicopter after the Thursday evening attack in Columbia Township.
The bear was out of its cage for its feeding, "which was normal for this particular bear because the caretaker and the owner had been around it so much," Drozdowski said. Mazzola was able to get the bear back in its cage by using a fire extinguisher.
"We don't know whether something startled the bear or what prompted the bear to get aggressive with the caretaker," Drozdowski said. "We do know that it got aggressive with the caretaker and mauled him severely."
Authorities will investigate before deciding whether to pursue any charges.