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Grizzly bear used in Will Ferrell movie kills trainer

By Gary Bogue
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 7:16 am in Grizzly bear.

A grizzly bear that appeared in Will Ferrell’s movie, “Semi-Pro,” killed a 39-year-old trainer with a bite to his neck.

The grizzly had to be subdued with pepper spray.

According to an Associated Press story, this grizzly was described as “the best working bear in the business,” in a February interview with the owner of the Predators In Action facility in Southern California, where the bear lived along with other wild animals used to make movies.

The longer you work with individual wild animals, the harder it can get to remember that they are still WILD ANIMALS, no matter how “tame” they appear to become. This can be particularly dangerous if the wild animal you are working with is a wild predator.

Remember what happened with the white tiger in a Las Vegas Casino show?

I remember years ago when I was curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, Calif. An associate and I were raising surplus mountain lion cubs from zoos as part of the museum’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation program. We were studying their youthful development and needs so we’d be in a position to raise and rehabilitate wild orphans brought to us by the state Fish and Game Department.

Early on while I was still learning how to work with large wild predators, I let my guard down one day while working with an 8-month-old male mountain lion cub. I’d raised the cub from 4-weeks of age and had this “parent/son” relationship with it. The grizzly trainer above may have had a similar relationship with the bear that killed him.

The lion cub did something I didn’t want him to do. He was wearing a harness and on a leash when he did it and I gave the leash a sharp yank.


Never get physical with a wild animal that’s bigger and stronger than you are. I Immediately learned my lesson. I was lucky and got out of it with 13 stitches.

“Tame” is a relative term when it comes to wild animals. “Tame” is not a tame domestic dog, or a tame domestic cat. A “tame” wild animal is still a wild animal, with all of its wild instincts, wild perceptions, wild needs and wild habits.

It’s always dangerous when you’re working with wild animals, no matter how “tame” they are.

I can’t even imagine working in close quarters with a 7½-foot tall, 700 pound grizzly bear. Especially if it loses its temper.

I’m very sorry for the man who was killed. I’ll also be very sorry for the grizzly bear if they decide they have to kill it for its deed. It was just being a wild animal. /Gary

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3 Responses to “Grizzly bear used in Will Ferrell movie kills trainer”

  1. Louis Dorfman Says:

    I saw your blog on one of the “alerts” I have for my email for topics of interest.

    I think you did a good job of explaining, in concise terms, what can happen with a wild animal.

    They are always wild; not malicious, not aggressive, just a combination of strong emotions, strong instincts, and NO inhibitions. The last one is what can get you; what they feel at the moment is what they will do.

    You’re exactly right; never get physical with a wild animal. I work with about 30 lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc. weekly, rehabilitating them from bad past environments. I also work with bears, as well as other wild animals. I never use any discipline, but always sense their mood at the moment and react appropriately to become a source of comfort and security for the animal. That is my margin of safety.

    What happened with this bear no one can know that didn’t know the bear and wasn’t present at the time of the tragedy. But, it was definitely not malicious, just a quick reaction to a negative stimulus. There’s just no margin for error, but don’t blame the bear. You put yourself in that position, it’s your responsibility to be right 100% of the time. If not, you should know the consequences.

  2. Gary Bogue Says:

    I agree.
    Please keep those consequences in mind as you go about your daily work with those wonderful animals. The fact that they’re being rehabilitated from bad past environments cuts that already-thin margin even thinner.
    But you know that. /Gary

  3. Ann Says:

    There’s no need for movies to be using real wild animals anymore. Computer technology can do the job perfectly well. Look at how seamlessly computer generated animals were merged with shots of the real ones in Winged Migration and March of the Penguins. Give jobs to American technology workers and let the bears live in peace.

    Hopefully the insurance and liability costs of using wild animals will rise enough because of this tragedy that movie studios will find it more cost effective to do the right thing.

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