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Michigan's zoos opposed to 'bear cub handling' bill

Courtesy of Pure Michigan

Legislation to allow tourists to hold and pose for photos while holding bear cubs is being criticized by Michigan’s zoo keepers.

The state senate passed a bill this month that would allow exhibitors to let people come into very close contact with bears less than nine months old and under 90 pounds.

The legislation is intended to help a bear sanctuary in the Upper Peninsula that funds its operations, in part, by letting tourists hold and pose for pictures with bear cubs.

Tara Harrison says that’s a bad idea.  She’s the veterinarian at Lansing’s Potter Park.

“A 90 pound bear is a substantial size bear.   That would be…larger than most Labrador Retrievers and it’s a wild animal,” says Harrison.  

Harrison says people can be seriously injured by a bear cub’s bite while handling the animal.  She says bear cubs can also pass on diseases, like rabies.

Zoo officials from the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, Saginaw’s Childrens Zoo, Battle Creek’s Binder Park Zoo, John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids and Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo say they will ask the State House to reject the bear cub bill.

Governor Snyder vetoed a similar bill last year.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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