A zoo in Athens that recently experienced vandalism reopened to the public on Sunday despite the setback.
Bear Hollow Zoo and Memorial Park are facilities of the ACC Leisure Services Department. Memorial Park is open from 8:00 a.m. to sunset on weekdays and 9:00 a.m. to sunset on weekends and holidays. Bear Hollow Zoo is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
The zoo is free of charge and offers families the opportunity to see Georgia’s wildlife. It houses a reptile and amphibian exhibit and offers facilities for birthday parties, children’s programs (for school outings), holiday events, live animal exhibits, wildlife-based educational programs and tours.
According to an article in the Athens Banner-Herald, multiple exhibits were damaged and an owl went missing as a result of the vandalism, requiring the free-of-charge zoo to close its doors on Saturday.
“The red-tailed screech owl was still missing on Sunday, according to a release from the zoo. Several exhibits inside the zoo were vandalized overnight Friday. Vandals broke viewing windows and cut locks, fences and aviary netting,” the article reads. “Most of the zoo’s exhibits and enclosures were damaged, according to the release.”
The vandalism also caused multiple other wildlife creatures to escape, including a box turtle, squirrels, ducks and the owl.
Although the turtle, ducks and squirrels were located on Saturday, the escaped owl was not.
Vandals reportedly left messages for zoo staff explaining they wanted to free the zoo animals from captivity.
“Bear Hollow Zoo only has Georgia-native animals that are considered non-releasable. For instance, the missing owl received that label because it couldn’t survive in the wild because of its damaged wings,” the ABH article reads. “People near Memorial Park are asked to keep a lookout for the 7-inch owl with red feathers and leather straps on its ankles. If the owl isn’t found, it could die from starvation or it could become prey.”
Authorities are warning citizens that the owl should be treated as a wild animal and could potentially attack. Anyone who spots the owl or who has information regarding the vandalism is asked to contact the Athens-Clarke County police at 706-546-5900.
Parts of the zoo may be closed in the coming week as staff, maintenance crews and trained volunteers work to repair the damage.