Bears Bred For Movies Kill Animal Trainer, Employer Fined $9000

Filed under: Legal,News,Safety & Workplace Violence |

There are all kinds of jobs and all kinds of ways to get killed on the job. Being mauled by a bear is one of them.

Wildlife casting agency, Animals of Montana Inc., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations after Benjamin Cloutier, a 24-year-old trainer, was mauled to death in November 2012 while cleaning the enclosure of captive-bred grizzly bears. The citations carry a total of $9,000 in proposed fines.

Two Syrian brown bears, Ursus arctos syriacus, killed an animal trainer at a company that trains animals for uses in films and photos shoots.

Two Syrian brown bears, Ursus arctos syriacus, killed an animal trainer at a company that trains animals for use in films and photos shoots.

Cloutier was killed while cleaning the pens of two Syrian brown bears — named Griz and Yosemite — at the company facility near Bozeman, Mont., according to the Associated Press.

Animals of Montana Inc., provides captive-bred predators and other animals for photography shoots and movies. The bears involved in the incident has been used in “attacked recreation” scenes, according to published reports.

“This is a tragedy that could have – and should have – been prevented,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Billings, Mont. “The use of a secondary holding area while cleaning cages is standard practice when working with animals capable of being dangerous to workers responsible for their care.”

OSHA cited Animals of Montana for one serious violation for allowing employees to have unrestricted, direct contact with grizzly bears.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Animals of Montana owner Troy Hyde told the AP that he disagreed that Cloutier’s death was preventable. He said putting trainers inside the cages of predatory animals “is absolutely something we must do.”

“We work inside a business that’s a highly dangerous business, and everybody that works within this business is very aware of the dangers,” Hyde told The Associated Press. “Those people don’t understand what we do. We’re not a zoo.”

Hyde claims in published reports that Cloutier was unconscious before the attack, possibly from a fall, because there were no defensive wounds on his hands.

Funke told the AP that investigators considered that possibility but found no evidence of a fall.

The company was also cited for one other-than-serious violation involving the failure to report an occupational fatality within eight hours. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Animals of Montana Inc., has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

According to the AP, Cloutier’s death wasn’t the first time an Animals of Montasna employee had been mauled.

A 2004 injury to an Animals of Montana worker by a mountain lion — originally reported to the state as a “scratch” — turned out to be a scalp laceration that cut down to the worker’s skull, Jones said. A doctor told investigators the man could have been killed if another employee had not stepped and sprayed the lion with bear spray.

One of the two bears involved in the incident was killed at the scene. Montana officials requested the second bear be destroyed, but company officials refused, according to published reports.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Billings office at 406-247-7494.

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