- Associated Press - Saturday, August 21, 2010

COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio (AP) — The roars and howls emanating from the property of a man who kept a menagerie of wolves, tigers and bears had many of his neighbors fed up even before one of the bears attacked and killed its 24-year-old caretaker.

“It’s a pain in the neck,” said Tom Burrington, 68, a retiree who lives two doors down. “There are coyotes hollering at night, lions roaring at night, junkyard dogs barking all day.”

A bear attacked caretaker Brent Kandra on Thursday evening after being taken out of its cage for a routine feeding, Lorain County Sheriff’s Capt. James Drozdowski said. Owner Sam Mazzola, who years ago earned the wrath of animal rights activists for letting people wrestle one of his bears, used a fire extinguisher to force the beast back into its cage.

“We don’t know whether something startled the bear or what prompted the bear to get aggressive with the caretaker,” Drozdowski said.

Kandra, of Elyria, died Friday morning at MetroHealth Medical Center of injuries consistent with a bear attack, a coroner said. It didn’t appear that the bear in the attack had even been used in wrestling, officials said.

In comments to reporters outside his compound, Mazzola said he was the only witness to the attack. He declined to describe what happened, but said the bear was the victim’s favorite.

“It’s one that he played with constantly, every time that he was here,” Mazzola said.

Whether the bear will be euthanized will be up to the victim’s family, Mazzola said.

“I want them to know that Brent loved the bear very much and I’m sure the bear loved him very much,” he said.

Mazzola showed off a facial scar he got from a bear encounter and said he had gotten 2,000 stitches from injuries suffered while working with animals.

“These are the things that happen when you deal and love these type of animals,” he said.

Kandra was an experienced worker who helped Mazzola maintain the compound in Columbia Township, the owner’s attorney, John Frenden, said Friday.

Mazzola had filed for bankruptcy this year and had convictions for illegally selling and transporting animals. Authorities will investigate before deciding on any criminal charges.

The property held about seven to nine bears and 20 wolves, and possibly a lion and three or four tigers, Drozdowski said. Neighbors said he also kept coyotes. Mazzola said in his bankruptcy filing in May in federal court in Cleveland that he owned two white tigers, two Bengal tigers, an African lion, eight bears and 12 wolves.

The filing also listed “Ceasar the Wrestling Bear” as a Mazzola trademark.

Story Continues →