The death of a bear cub at a pumpkin patch in South Barrington, Illinois, has sparked outrage and calls for a boycott.
On Oct. 24, two 10-month-old bear cubs at Goebbert's Farm and Garden Center were playing, but one of the cubs collapsed. “The other baby bear would go up to it and bite it by its neck to play and the bear was just completely unresponsive,” witness John Ziel told WGNTV.
The pumpkin patch, which featured a farm and exotic animal exhibit, said a veterinarian immediately performed a necropsy on the cub, which was inconclusive. They’re currently waiting on a toxicology report, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The animal exhibit isn’t owned by the farm, it belongs to Timbavati Wildlife Park, based in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. “You are going to have situations where young animals die. It happens with people,” owner Mark Schoebel told WGNTV.
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Some patrons have said they won’t return. "After seeing the animals and their living conditions this [weekend], the lack of staff in the animal areas taking care of, feeding, cleaning, my family and I will no longer go there. Now a cub has died while in your care ...?!? No thank u!!!” Harmony Meilahn-Sell wrote on the farm’s Facebook post, which disclosed the cub’s death.
"Why does Goebberts and others find it necessary to have exotics and those poor ponies as part of their fall entertainment. Fall is about pumpkin, apple picking and hayrides. Leave it at that and don't be so greedy by endangering animals that don't belong there. So sad and shame on you!” commented Rose Gaudio.
Despite the detractors, Hooved Animal Rescue & Protection Society, a nonprofit animal welfare organization, said the operation looks fine. “All the animals we saw looked healthy,” Ronda Griffin, who is licensed by the state's agriculture department to look for signs of neglect, told WGNTV. “It is a remarkably run operation here.”
One of the farm’s managers, Holly Danielson, said the animals were well cared for. "There's knowledgeable and trained staff that live on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that are hired and trained by the company we hire to handle the animals. They are in charge of the feeding and care,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
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Still, she’s not sure if the animals will return next year. "It's definitely something up for conversation," she said.