- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — Two black bears killed last month after one of them bit a child were buried this weekend at an emotional memorial service attended by 500 mourners.

The bodies of the bears, euthanized to be tested for rabies after biting a 4-year-old who put his arm through the fence surrounding their 2-acre habitat, were exhumed from a landfill and cremated last week after a public outcry over their deaths intensified.

“This is where they belong,” said a teary Samantha Monk, 9, of Glen Allen, who joined several people in laying flowers and wreaths at the grave. “They shouldn’t have been in a landfill. That’s a place for trash. These bears aren’t trash.”

The burial service at Maymont Park, where the bears lived, was attended Saturday by Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, clergy, and Boy Scouts who presented the state and U.S. flags.

“This is a time to heal and say thank you to the bears for all they’ve given us,” said the Rev. Vienna Cobb Anderson, an Episcopal priest who offered a final prayer.

The bears were killed Feb. 23 after 14 officials from Maymont, the city Department of Public Health, the state Department of Health and the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries met for nearly three hours to determine the best course of action.

The biting incident occurred Feb. 18.

The mother of the bitten child told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that she and her son were sharing an apple at the park when she turned her head for a few seconds.

When she turned back around, she said, her son had gotten through a wooden fence and was standing outside the 10-foot chain-link fence that surrounds the bear habitat.

Mr. Wilder announced Feb. 24 that the city would investigate the incident and the decision to kill the bears.

A preliminary report Friday cited a major breakdown in how the city Department of Public Health contacted others about the incident.

The city is investigating the actions of the mother of the child.

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