The little black bear cub who came close to being put down this month for causing a rabies scare at a college is living now at the St. Louis zoo while state conservation officials are trying to track down how the animal wound up in a petting zoo after being born in a wild animal park and sold at a livestock auction.
The media knows the creature as Boo Boo, but a story posted on the St. Louis Post Dispatch website Saturday reveals a secret: Boo Boo wasn’t always the animal’s name.
The newspaper says Boo Boo started out as Rudy at birth. He weighed just 6 ounces and was sick. The name Rudy comes from the hit movie about the pint-sized football player who made the Notre Dame team despite his size.
Boo Boo was born at the Wild Animal Safari park a few miles east of Springfield, Mo., and the park's general manager Sondra Morgan nursed him to health.
“It was devastating to all of us — that somebody could be so ignorant as to buy a bear and put it in a petting zoo,” Morgan tells the Post Dispatch. “All he wants to do is play with you. But he’s a bear! He’s got the jaw power of an alligator.”
The newspaper reported that in April, Morgon took Boo Boo to a livestock auction in Macon, Mo., where he and his two siblings were sold to three separate buyers for $500 apiece.
But Boo Boo's buyer apparently didn't have his paperwork in order and the bear next found a home at a St. Louis petting zoo called Cindy's Zoo.
Boo Boo's trouble started a couple of weeks ago when Cindy’s Zoo made a visit to Washington University. The students posed for Facebook photos with Boo Boo while he nibbled on their fingers. That created the rabies scare, the Post Dispatch says.
Officials said the only way to determine if Boo Boo had rabies was to put the animal down. But students protested, and Boo Boo got a reprieve -- and a one-way ticket to the zoo.
Scott Corley of the Missouri Conservation Department says an investigation is now under way.
“We’ll dig in a little deeper now to see what happened and how it happened,” he tells the Post Disptach.