Wildlife park owner fined after bear escaped near restaurant

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A wildlife park owner has been fined after an exotic bear cub escaped into a restaurant parking lot as it was being transported in Minnesota.

Kevin Vogel was fined $1,357 by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), which found him in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, according to a citation notice.

Vogel and his wife operate the Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd, and on Oct. 27, 2014 he was transporting a Syrian brown bear between their facilities in Sanborn and Brainerd.

But the enclosure holding the bear wasn't strong enough to contain it securely, and the bear took advantage of a faulty latch to escape.

He emerged in the parking lot of a restaurant, where it "encountered people" before being captured and taken to an animal hospital and wildlife rehabilitation facility, according to the citation.

APHIS said Vogel did not ensure the bear was kept in an enclose "sufficient to contain the live animals and to withstand the normal rigors of transportation."

According to the Star Tribune, Vogel was in the restaurant eating at the time. He told the newspaper the bear got loose because of a "mechanical failure" with the latch, and that he's paid the fine.

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