Grizzly Bear Intruder Identified

Shooting team fired a warning shot to keep the bears at bay and staffers secured the bears inside their dens without incident.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A man jumped in an animal enclosure Saturday at the San Francisco Zoo.

    A 21-year-old transient has been identified as the man who climbed into the San Francisco Zoo's grizzly bear enclosure at closing time Saturday.

    At a news conference Sunday morning at the zoo, authorities confirmed Kenneth Herron was the man who somehow got into the exhibit but was not hurt, despite coming within inches of one of the bears, according to Bob Jenkins, vice president for the zoo's Institutional Advancement.

    Herron was spotted inside the enclosure by another zoo visitor around 5 p.m., and zoo staff immediately responded to the exhibit area, zoo spokeswoman Gwendolyn Tornatore said.

    More than a dozen people stood and watched as one of the bears approached the man who laid down behind a wall.  They said the bear swatted at the man a couple of times, but never seemed aggressive.

    Herron had somehow made his way into the enclosure that is surrounded by 15-foot walls on three sides, and a 13- to 14-foot moat with a 4-foot high barrier on the fourth side, Jenkins said.

    Jenkins said he doesn't know why Herron climbed into the bears' enclosure, but said it's no easy feat to get inside.

    "It would be pure speculation on my part as to why he went in the bear enclosure," he said. "It takes a very concerted effort to get into the facility. You have to be very determined to do that."

    One of the bears came up to Herron and sniffed his foot, but zoo staff fired a warning shot that kept the bears from attacking him, Jenkins said.

    The bears were taken safely into their night quarters and secured, Jenkins said, and Herron was taken into police custody and placed under psychiatric evaluation. Herron reportedly has outstanding prior warrants, Jenkins said.

    The two bears in the grizzly enclosure are sisters and about 5 or 6 years old, according to Jenkins. The zoo rescued them in 2005 when they were going to be euthanized for raiding ranchers' barns in Montana.

    On Christmas Day 2007, a 17-year-old boy was killed at the zoo by a Siberian tiger that escaped its enclosure.