CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Zoo closed for several hours Wednesday after two polar bears wandered out of an exhibit.
"Little One" and "Berit" took advantage of an open door around 11:30 a.m., according to zoo spokesperson Michelle Curry. The male and female pair were tranquilized after keps found them in the back hallway behind their exhibit area.
"The bears entered an inappropriate area but did not leave the building and the public was never at risk," said Zoo Director Thane Maynard.
As a precaution, guests were moved indoors or asked to leave. Visitors were allowed back in around 1:30 p.m.
"Zoo staff followed protocols that we have in place and were able to safely return the bears to their primary holding area in under two hours," said Maynard.
The bears ended up in what zoo officials described as a "behind the scenes" area with extra security features.
"Even if it's in a back area, it is very secure and locked in," Maynard said of the exhibit area.
According to the Cincinnati Zoo's blog, 17-year-old Berit is the first polar bear to ever undergo infertility treatments. Littler One is Berit's 26-year-old mate. They should be back on exhibit as early as this Friday, Curley says.
For some living in the neighborhood near the zoo, the incident stirred up quite a concern.
"You never know. You could come home and there's an animal in your front yard, and you've got to call the zoo, 'Hey, I think you're missing someone,'" said Kristen Elia who lives nearby.
The bears did not make it to anyone's front yard. In fact, they never made it out of the zoo, only escaping into a "behind-the-scenes service hallway" area. Elia says she's a little frightened, especially because she lives right across the street from the zoo.
"Sometimes in the morning I'll wake up and I'll actually hear them - the monkeys exhibit. Sometimes they're kind of squawking," Elia told FOX19 NOW.
She hopes that, as long as she lives a stone's throw from the zoo, this never happens again.
"If it happened once, that's probably the only time that it's going to happen while I'm living here, at least," Elia said. "I really like living this close to the zoo. It's really convenient. But, I guess you would never think about an animal getting out."