For the second time in less than a week, The ZOO in Gulf Breeze has had difficulties with its large cats.
Tuesday afternoon the compound was closed after two cougars escaped from their pens for several hours. During the shutdown, about 30 visitors had to move to secured areas while a search was conducted.
On Monday, an African leopard bit a zookeeper. The woman suffered cuts on her hand, but she is expected to return to work this week.
According to news reports, a small opening in the animals’ enclosure was big enough to allow them to slip away shortly before 2 p.m.. Doug Kemper, The ZOO’s executive director, said no visitors nor the cats were injured during the incident. He also said that neither of the cougars escaped The ZOO’s property.
One cat was recaptured after about an hour, but the second cougar took a little longer to find. It was hit by two tranquilizer darts, but it managed to hide in some underbrush where searchers could not locate it. An Escambia County Sheriff ’s Office helicopter used infrared cameras to find it just as it was about to fall asleep, Kemper said.
Once the cougars were back in their pens, The ZOO remained closed the rest of the day, but is expected to reopen today. The cougar exhibit will stay closed while the cats’ pens are inspected and repaired.