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Mayor's Bear Contest Flouts Maymont Rules 

Wilder, in an apparent response to the premature bear-naming, exhorted children to send in their suggestions, along with drawings of a planned bear statue.

Harmless family fun, right?

Maymont doesn't think so.

"We're trying to figure out what to do," Maymont spokeswoman Kate Brown said May 5. "Because we do have a policy against naming animals, wild animals."

Maymont's previous black bears were euthanized in February to test them for rabies after one bear bit a 4-year-old boy who stuck his hand through a chain-link fence. The incident triggered an outcry from the grieving public, a city investigation led by Wilder (the boy's mother was found not to be at fault) and a memorial service attended by hundreds.

The black bears had no official names, but their caretakers called them "Baby" and "Buster." Interestingly, as people wrote messages to the bears at the homemade memorial outside Maymont's bear enclosure, someone assiduously blacked out the bears' names with black marker everywhere they appeared.

Maymont's then-Executive Director Geoffrey Platt Jr. said at the time he didn't know who censored the names. The reason Maymont doesn't officially name the wild animals, he said, is because the park doesn't want people to think of them as pets. "They're very different from the goat up at the children's farm," Platt said.

Now, nearly three months after the boy was bitten for treating the bears too familiarly, the new bear could be saddled with a cuddly name like "Pooh" or "Douggie."

"The bigger issue," Brown says, is that the city didn't inform or include Maymont in its plans for the contest. "Very frustrating," she says.

The bear cub was originally dubbed "Tim" by staff at the game department as a compliment to the Kaine administration's support of their department. The governor's response to Wilder's bid for a new name?

"You're welcome," says amused spokesman Kevin Hall. S



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