Handler sustains bites and laceration from bear cub

Wednesday, June 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) -- An exotic animal sanctuary handler was bitten on his arms and leg Tuesday when a black bear cub attacked him as he tried to feed her, authorities said.

Galen Timothy Bannon, 48, was listed in good condition at SouthCrest, a spokesman for the hospital said.

The most severe cut inflicted by the 200-pound, 4-foot-tall bear was on Bannon's right forearm. The gash measured about 4 inches long and was about a half-half wide and a half-inch deep, Broke nArrow Assistant Fire Chief Ben Thomas said.

The attack occurred around noon. The facility was not open to the public at the time, officials said.

The incident marked the second time 3-year-old Sophie has bitten a volunteer animal handler at Safari's Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Wagoner County, authorities said.

Sophie, a captive-bred who has lived at the facility since birth, may have to be euthanized to determine whether she had rabies, Lori Ensign, president of the sanctuary, said.

Sophie, as with nearly all of the animals taken in by the sanctuary, has been declawed, Ensign said.

Bannon entered the bear's cage with a bucket of food, Ensign said. He turned away to clean the cage and Sophie "jumped him and attacked him and started biting him," she said.

A backup handler who was inside the cage helped pull Bannon out and closed the cage.

"He was more worried about the animal, which is typical of the people helping us here," Ensign said of Bannon.

An attack last Thursday was dismissed as a "freak deal" in which Sophie was "playing rough," she said. In that case, a volunteer handler was bitten on the wrists and required about 20 stitches.