The Maymont Bears

Recently, I introduced you to Maymont Park in General. Today’s focus is on the Bears that reside there. Over the years, different Bears have been lucky enough to call Maymont Park Home. These bears don’t have to worry about being hunted or where they will find food. They have ample room to roam and a large pond to frolic in on hot summer days. Not to mention, they have plenty of visitors who marvel at their size and beauty.

The bear display is on the left.

If you come to the bear display from the petting farm, the enclosure is on your left. There is a sheltered area under the sign boards, somewhat underground. I don’t have any photos to share, but you can take my word for it. The backboard of the structure shown is used to display announcements for upcoming events as well as artwork done by the children from local schools. It is a nice place to sit and rest for a few minutes and from which to observe the bears through the windows. As you can see, there are also permanent plaques with information about the bears and other wildlife that share their habitat.

The Bear Enclosure at Maymont Park

Showing off for an audience.

The bears seems to enjoy the attention. Sadly, about five years ago, a mother and her young son (5 years old ?) visited the bears. Despite the signs clearly stating the bears were not to be fed, and the walls with plastic windows (allowing the children to view the bears), Mom just had to break the rules. Her irresponsible actions costs two of the bears their lives.

Time for a swim

Bear Watching

The woman decided to let her child hand feed the bears an apple. She went beyond the lower fence on the far side of their enclosure, then let her child feed the bear through a second chain linked fence. When the bear reached for the apple, he scratched the boy accidentally. Since no one knew which bear scratched the child, both bears were destroyed. It was not like the kid was attacked, but the park officials panicked and after a brief meeting decided the only thing to do was to euthanize the bears to test them for rabies. Their feeble excuse was that the bears could not be quarantined. Hello! The bears WERE quarantined all along. This was not a bear attack, it was an accident that could have been avoided altogether. The people of Richmond and the surrounding areas were outraged. Then to add insult to injury, the bears corpses were hauled off to the local dump. That little move really iced the cake. The backboard shown above was filled with teddy bears and notes of grievance and anger, directed at those responsible for the decision to have the bears ‘murdered’. Local radio shows were overrun with calls from the citizens demanding that something be done to commemorate the bears, and to give them the recognition they deserved. Even Doug Wilder, our Mayor at the time, was outraged that these bears were unjustly killed.

Statue to Commemorate the Maymont Bears

It took several days, combing the landfill to find those two corpses to give them a proper burial upon the insistence of the public. A local funeral home cremated the two bears and they now forever RIP in their own private little plot off the path leading to the bear pen. In another location a bronze statue was erected to honor ALL Maymont bears. The children love to play on the statue as you can see. While the statue is a lovely gesture, it would have been nice to have been donated to the park, less the tragedy that prompted its placement.

31 responses to “The Maymont Bears

    • I think the woman should have been punished in some way, other than via humiliation. Jail-time? A fine? She got nothing. I still to this day don’t understand why either bear was put down. They were (and are) quarantined just being on display in the park. It was heartbreaking, to say the least.


    • Believe me, people around here are still pissed that this happened. Hopefully, it will be the 1st and last time, people act in such haste. The sad thing is that there are signs posted (in both, Spanish and English) telling people not to feed the bears. There is always someone that thinks the rules don’t apply to them, and then, it is either the animals or the children that suffer (as a rule). It was/is an extremely sad story.


      • Here, in our park, last year, they started a campaign to stop people from feeding the ducks in the pond. They put up a big, huge sign, that also tells them WHY it isn’t good to feed ducks white bread. Very informative and nice. At first, it seemed to help a little …it was on the radio and all that. That’s all over. The cars park right in front of the big sign.. the ducks flock to cars [car=food], so that there are hundreds of ducks around the car, and most importantly; UNDER the car. The other day, a dead duck was placed on top of a garbage can… They drive away, without checking how many ducks are under the car … Arghhhh!


        • I’ll bet if your park imposed fines for disobeying the rules, things would change. I wish the lady at Maymont had been held responsible for the cost of destroying, rummaging through the landfill, then cremating the bears, at the very least. I think the funeral home preformed the cremation for free though. But still, she should have suffered some consequences for her actions, if for no other reason than to set an example for others. People just don’t seem to care.


  1. >Despite the signs clearly stating the bears were not to be fed, and the walls with plastic windows (allowing the children to view the bears), Mom just had to break the rules.
    – It is very normal for children to be excited when they see animals, but no matter the situation, it us up to the parents or accompanying adult to explain and exemplify the rules of the place. Yet, I have seen parents instigate certain behaviour towards animals, pets or those in zoos and parks. Unfortunately, someone always pays a price for that ignorance. Here, those, poor bears did. 😦

    >In another location a bronze statue was erected to honor ALL Maymont bears.
    – At least, some small effort to educate the public. How many actually learn is the tricky question though.



    • Sadly Kate, from what I understand, it was the mother that prompted her child to feed the bear the apple. Had the child wandered too close to the pen on his own, I think, even though tragic, the situation would have been a ‘little’ more tolerable. I think a whole lot of people learned from this incidence. It just irks me that only a handful of people made the decision to euthanize the bears. Had this matter been set to a vote, the bears would in all likelihood, still be a live today.


  2. This is so sad. So many animals die every day because of human stupidity. It’s senseless and shameful. I’m comforted that so many people spoke for these bears and they at least got a proper burial and memorial.


    • I don’t think the park officials had any choice. Everybody, including our Mayor, was outraged that these bears weren’t ‘left’ under quarantine, rather than destroyed. It was a hasty decision, and one that I hope/doubt will never be repeated. The Thalheimers, a private family (I think) donated the statue. They have been very generous in their donations to the park over the years.


  3. Thank you so much for sharing this heartrending story. Animals deserve so much better treatment than they so often receive. I’m glad in the end that they bears received the respect that they deserved and was not given to them in their lives.


    • I suspect they were happy bears until Mom had her son feed them the apple. Some hasty and horrible decisions were made. Had there been a town vote, these bears would probably still be alive today. As a rule, Maymont animals have it made. This was just a really sad tragedy. Sometimes people need to stop and THINK. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


      • The bears would have been treated better if people in general had more respect for them. I guess, we can only hope that in the future people will take better care of all the Earth’s creatures.


  4. Pingback: Swananoah: A peek inside . View 1. looking down | orples

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