Feds Order Maymont to Secure Bears 

Park faces June deadline for fixing fence issues.


Four years after two black bears at Maymont Park were euthanized after a child was bitten while reaching into their enclosure — sparking a public outpouring of grief and outrage — the fencing around Maymont's bear enclosure still isn't secure, the United States Department of Agriculture says.

The USDA's most recent routine inspection of Maymont, on July 13, revealed “several perimeter fence issues” concerning wildlife exhibits: The park has yet to erect a required 8-foot-perimeter fence around the black bear exhibit, and repairs are needed in the fence that surrounds the entire park, the USDA reports. Also missing is a perimeter fence on one side of the sika deer enclosure.

In addition, two unmanned entrances at Hampton Street and Spottswood Road are “allowing the public unchecked access to the parks and the animals.”

Inspector Doris T. Hackworth also notes in the report that the black bears need a higher ceiling in their individual enclosures, where they live from about 5:30 p.m. each day until 9 or 10 the following morning. The arched roof of each enclosure is 5 feet tall at its highest point. “This means that the animals are unable to stand upright in their enclosures, which is a normal posture for a bear,” she writes.

The inspector gives Maymont a deadline of Oct. 20 to address the deer fencing and the open-access gates, and until Jan. 20 to repair the perimeter fence and raise the bears' roof. A taller fence must be constructed around the bears' enclosure by July 20.

Maymont sent the department a letter on Sept. 30 requesting clarifications of some of the issues the inspector noted, Maymont Foundation Executive Director Norman Burns says. “Until we hear back from them,” he says, “it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further on that.”

Burns says the USDA is willing to work with the foundation to determine the best solutions. The primary intent of the federal animal welfare regulations is to govern the health and safety of animals being exhibited, department spokesman David Sacks says, as well as to prevent “potentially harmful interactions” between people and animals.

In 2006, Maymont's two black bears, Buster and Baby, were euthanized to be tested for rabies, after a 4-year-old boy was bitten when he reached through the fence to pet or feed the bears. After a public outcry, the bears were cremated and later memorialized with a statue at Maymont.


Latest in News and Features

Comments (17)

Showing 1-17 of 17

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-17 of 17

Add a comment

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

  • Moving Pictures

    Moving Pictures

    Lucy Dacus revisits her Richmond upbringing on new album, “Home Video.”
    • Jun 22, 2021
  • COMMENTARY: Pedestals with Purpose

    COMMENTARY: Pedestals with Purpose

    Richmond should carefully examine what to do with the remaining pedestals from the Confederate monuments – considering each individually.
    • Jun 22, 2021
  • Power to the People

    Power to the People

    A new documentary about the rise and fall of the Confederate monuments offers a sweeping history of resistance.
    • Jun 8, 2021
  • Waive That Flag

    Waive That Flag

    A VCU teacher has students redesign Virginia flags to “reckon with dead symbols.”
    • Jun 8, 2021
  • More »

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation