A woman whose husband was keeping exotic animals including lions, cougars and tigers without a valid license was mauled and killed by a 350-pound pet black bear Sunday night.
Kelly Ann Walz, 37, was pronounced dead on the scene at the couple's home in Ross Township, Penn., on Sunday.
Pennsylvania Game Commission officials said Walz's husband, Michael Walz, had longstanding permits to keep, sell and display exotic animals.
The permits expired in June 2008, but a lapsed permit is considered a summary violation — similar to a traffic ticket — and would not have resulted in the removal of the animals, said commission spokesman Jerry Feaser.
He said the most recent state inspection in 2007 did not turn up any problems, nor were any discovered when game commission investigators returned after Sunday night's attack.
Michael Walz, who has been licensed since 1994, reported to authorities in 2007 that he kept a lion, cougar, jaguar, tiger, black bear, leopard and two servals on the property in Ross Township, a rural area in the Pocono Mountains, about 20 miles northeast of Allentown.
Kelly Ann Walz went into the bear's 15-by-15-foot steel and concrete cage about 5 p.m. Sunday, throwing a shovelful of dog food to one side to distract the bear while she cleaned the other side, Conway said. At some point the bear turned on her and attacked.
Her children and the neighbor's children saw the attack and summoned help, and the neighbor shot and killed the bear while it was atop Walz, Conway said.
"Why this woman chose to go in the same area that the bear was in is beyond me. It's a fatal mistake," he said. "These things are not tame animals, they're wild animals."
Scott Castone, her friend and neighbor told the Associated Press, "she loved the animals and took care of them."
"She's done it a 1,000 times," said Castone. "And on 1,001, something happened."
Castone shot and killed the bear, after the children went for help.
Owners of wild animals typically have a two-section cage, allowing them to isolate the animal behind a locked gate while they clean the other part, Conway said.
Michael Walz is listed in state corporation records as the president of World of Reptiles Inc. The business was created in 1988.
A man who answered the phone at a listing for Michael Walz said the family did not want to comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.