Game Commission continues investigating after bear bites staffer at Nemacolin
The Pennsylvania Game Commission continued its investigation Monday into a Nemacolin Woodlands Resort employee being bitten by a Himalayan Bear over the weekend during a “Safari Tour.”
The agency’s Southwestern Pennsylvania office near Ligonier confirmed a game commission officer has been assigned the case. Attempts to reach the officer for comment were unsuccessful.
The resort in Farmington, Fayette County, confirmed Saturday that a bear, which has been at Nemacolin for nine years, reached through a wire fence, pulled an employee closer and bit the worker’s arm during a guided tour. The employee, who has not been identified, was airlifted to an undisclosed area trauma center for treatment, the resort said.
While the resort said the employee was stable and alert after the incident, Nemacolin spokesman Kory Young declined to disclose the worker’s condition Monday. He said the resort was awaiting information from the employee’s family before releasing further details.
The resort reported the associate was standing between two levels of wire fencing at the bear enclosure when the incident occurred.
The bear was engaged in order to release the arm and the associate was immediately extracted, the resort said.
The $90 guided safari is advertised in Nemacolin pamphlets as an opportunity to “experience a behind the scenes, interactive look at exotic animals,” including sheep, goats, wolves, tigers, lions and buffalo.
Nemacolin’s website states the bear habitat is part of its Wildlife Academy.
Maggie Hardy Knox, president of Nemacolin, said her father and Nemacolin founder, Joe Hardy, began the Wildlife Academy many years ago “with the inspiration to share his love for animals with others.”
“His passion and commitment to their habitat and well-being are part of the mission we still carry out today. With many of the animals on our property being rescued by my father from failing zoos, he believed making them part of our family would leave lasting impressions on our guests, provide an educational experience and foster the belief in conservation,” the website notes.
Young said he’s worked at the resort for 16 years, and “we’ve never experienced a similar incident as long as I’ve been here.”
Travis Lau, communications director with the state game commission in Harrisburg, said Nemacolin has a menagerie permit. There are 79 such permits currently valid statewide, he said.
“They generally are inspected annually,” Lau said.
Lau reported he had no record of any other attacks, but he is aware of a game warden being scratched by a monkey when doing a facility inspection at another location several years ago. Lau said he had no current information on the ongoing investigation by game commission officers in the southwest region.
Nemacolin’s website states the resort and its wildlife programs are in compliance with U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.
USDA animal care inspectors conduct routine, unannounced inspections of all licensed animal exhibitors registered under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act. Nemacolin is among 90 entities in Pennsylvania that hold an active exhibitor’s license, according to online documents.
The agency said during routine inspections, USDA reviews the premises, records, husbandry practices, program of veterinary care and animal handling procedures to ensure the animals are receiving humane care. The frequency of inspections is based on several factors, including compliance history.
In a routine inspection July 26 a federal inspector recommended development of a plan for environment enhancement for four ring-tailed lemurs kept at the resort. The inspector noted in documents the issue was discussed with a staff veterinarian and a plan was put in place during the course of inspection.
No other compliance issues were reported.
A routine federal inspection in 2017 identified no issues.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .