An international wildlife protection charity says a video that surfaced this week of a bear eating ice cream in a Dairy Queen drive-thru is sending the wrong message to anyone who sees it.
The video, posted to Facebook by Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail, Alta., has been removed. The wildlife park is apologizing for any misconception the video caused, saying it wasn’t portraying what it intended.
The video showed a one-year-old captive bear, named Berkley, eating from an ice cream cone as it leaned out through the window of a vehicle in a Dairy Queen drive-thru.
WATCH: Berkley the bear, a permanent resident of the Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail, Alta., eats ice cream from a vehicle in a Dairy Queen drive-thru in a video the wildlife park created as a warning against interacting with wildlife.
A second video, which has also been removed from the wildlife park’s Facebook page, showed the same bear licking faces and eating an ice cream cake on a picnic table with one of the park staff during its birthday celebration.
Since seeing the video, the province launched an investigation into the matter, calling the video “disturbing.”
“Discovery Wildlife Park has a permit authorizing them to possess and display wildlife and controlled animals. Under the terms of the permit, Discovery Wildlife Park is required to adhere to the wildlife and controlled animal transportation standards contained within the zoo standards,” Justice and Solicitor General spokesperson Brendan Cox said in an emailed statement.
“The investigation is ongoing and will determine if the law and/or permit terms and conditions were broken.
“We will take the needed time to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation. If non-compliance is found, the appropriate enforcement action will be taken.”
Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international wildlife protection charity that promotes the well-being of wild animals. For Zoocheck spokesperson Rob Laidlaw, the video means steps backwards for animal education and protection.
“Well I think my first reaction was, ‘Oh no, here we go again,’” Laidlaw said.
“We’ve worked for many, many years to try to make people in the Canadian public more respectful of animals, to not see them as pets, to not see them as animals that are strictly there for our amusement.”
He said showing an animal that’s generally considered to be dangerous in amusement situations and licking peoples’ faces is sending the wrong message to the public, and undermines efforts to teach the public how to coexist with wild animals.
“I think the evidence is there that when you engage in these kinds of things people to pick up the wrong kinds of messages and it’s detrimental, potentially to them and certainly detrimental to the animals,” Laidlaw said.
He said he’s happy to see the province taking the situation seriously, as well as other wildlife groups raising red flags about the videos.
He believes the biggest issue on most peoples’ minds after seeing this video is the potential risk to public safety, despite the fact that the wildlife park said the bear was chained and safe inside the car.
“Anything can happen,” he said.
“You have to prepare for the unexpected when you’re dealing with animals, and most facilities – you go to Calgary Zoo, you go to Edmonton Zoo, you go to Toronto Zoo, you go to Bronx Zoo – they’re not taking these kinds of animals out into the public because when you do things can happen.
“I just really hope that people realize that this may seem like a quirky fun sort of little story that everybody laughs at, but it’s far more serious.”
A zookeeper at the wildlife park said the video was meant to grab attention, but not attention like this.
“We had originally put out the video out purpose for a purpose and it was for conservation,” head zookeeper Serena Bos said. “And it has been taken very out of context and we’re extremely sorry for that and that’s not goal ever has been or ever will be.”
“Our whole purpose is to spread conservation messages for wild bears.”
The wildlife park said it will continue to post Berkley update videos online. A video posted on Thursday shows the bear munching on dried plants and trees in a wooded area.