The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has introduced Billy -- an 8-month-old North American black bear -- to its visitors.
Billy was orphaned in Southwest Florida and "well-meaning but uninformed individuals tried to care for him," the zoo said in a release. Wildlife officials determined that due to Billy's affinity for people, he is not able to be released to the wild.
Zookeepers said Billy is very energetic and "puppy-like" when he goes to greet them.
Over the next week or two, the zoo will introduce Billy to Betsy, a female black bear who has been at the zoo since October 2016. Though bears are usually solitary animals, zoo staff determined that Betsy would be a good candidate for having a companion. The zoo staff hopes Billy and Betsy will share the exhibit in the near future.
Billy will have limited time on exhibit each day with no set schedule, the zoo said. He was spotted being playful with the children at the glass viewing window.
The zoo is working in partnership with other Florida zoos and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to improve bear/human relations by informing the public on the importance of avoiding interactions with wild bears.
In addition to testing bear-proof trash cans, zoos are helping to spread the message that if you encounter a young bear in the wild that appears to be orphaned, call the FWC Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) and do not feed the bear or attempt to care for it. Hand-fed bears may become irreversibly habituated to humans.
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