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Hide and seek: Baltimore zoo's polar bears briefly wander from habitat into holding area

As 2-year-olds sometimes do, Amelia Gray and Neva briefly wandered away from where they should have been Friday afternoon.

Given that they are polar bears, it caused a bit of a stir.

The Maryland Zoo’s cubs waddled away from the public display area into a behind-the-scenes holding area around 12:30 p.m., prompting staff to temporarily secure visitors in the penguin building and the Tundra Buggy and reception areas as part of a safety protocol, officials said.

By 1:10 p.m., the pair was back in the Polar Bear Watch area, they said, and neither they nor any visitors were harmed.

“Staff called them back to the habitat area,” said Mike McClure, the zoo’s general curator. “We used a lot of fish.”

Amelia Gray was coaxed back first and, after a bit more poking around the holding area, Neva joined her, McClure said.

He said the zoo was still investigating how the bears got into the holding area, a hallway-like space that keepers bring the animals to at night or for any procedures that need to be done on them. McClure said at least 20 visitors were in the zoo at the time.

Zookeepers in a nearby office area had seen the polar bears in the holding area, and called for assistance, the zoo said. The zoo went into response mode, as it trains for in the event of animal escapes, injuries or other unexpected scenarios, officials said. But the bears were in secured areas the entire time, and the public was not at risk, the zoo said.

And no, McClure said, the curious cubs won’t face a disciplinary time out. They will be on display as usual this weekend.

“They didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

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