Adopted bear snug in new zoo home

The bear removed Tuesday from his 21-year former home in the suburban Gulf of Riga fishing village of Ragaciems to the Riga Zoo has done some interior redecorating but otherwise seems to have settled into his new habitat for this season’s hibernation, zoo spokesman Māris Lielkalns told national information agency LETA Wednesday.  

Despite being shown a range of sleeping options among a set of walled enclosures, the domesticated ‘pet’ bear, raised lovingly from a cub by Latvia’s weightlifting and boxing community leader since its adoption in 1994 before being christened by his master as “The Terrible”, pushed over and moved one of the walls to a different section of the habitat better to his own liking and snuggled sleepily into position towards his imminent winter hibernation.

However he did not refuse a proper meal before doing so, and Lielkalns added that this is not his complete transition to hibernation mode just yet, as further veterinary tests will be needed after preliminary results of his first proper check-up come in.

On Tuesday the bear’s former owner Aivars Ritenieks described the incident like something out of a criminal television series.

“At nine this morning my house was surrounding be about twenty policemen in masks. There were some specialists from the National Park and Saeima deputy (Ingmārs) Līdaka – (former Riga Zoo chief). They took the bear well aware it was my personal property. This happened by use of force without a proper court order,” complained the eccentric and outspoken character.

According to Ritenieks, ‘Ol’ Terrible had already made his preparations to hibernate two weeks earlier than usual.

“The cage was ransacked, the bear was injected and pulled out. That is detrimental to his health,” adding that his health had been fine.

He said the problem should have been resolved between himself and the Danske Bank, to which the property was transferred in the spring, and the Engure county local government.

“The bank never said anything, but the local government left the drowning guy to save himself,” he said.

“I would have moved elsewhere and returned to make his den in a new place,” said the bear’s erstwhile master. He vowed if the bear were returned to him the weightlifting and boxing club Brāļi territory would house the habitat near Engure, which should have been finished by next spring, despite being short €12-15,000 in funding.

“I’m responsible for that creature that came to me in such a fateful way and I will fight for him,” said Ritenieks.

He accused his neighbor (with children) of being the only nearby resident with a bone to pick against the unusual pet animal, adding that he’s received phone calls about it ranging from death threats to purchase offers.

Nature Protection Board general director Sandra Bērziņa confirmed the transporting operation had been rather complicated, but the team of local government police, State Police and Fire and Rescue Service and veterinary health officers pulled it off without a hitch.

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