They will never escape their savage backstory, but three young bears whose mother led them on a rampage through a Montana campground embarked on a new career Friday: fuzzy zoo attractions.
As a posse of preschoolers pressed close as the glass would allow, the three grizzlies — now Dolly, Loulou and Koda — nosed around their new two-acre spread at ZooMontana in Billings.
Wildlife officials euthanized the bears' mother in July, after the bears were trapped just after a late-night attack outside Yellowstone National Park. A Michigan man was killed and two people were injured.
The young — now almost 2 years old — were with the marauding sow bear, but their precise role remains unknown. Investigators concluded the mother was leading her young to food.
Now, after five months in quarantine, the bears are taking their first forays this week around their new home, about 125 miles from the site of the attacks. Friday's visit by the zoo's on-site preschool class was the largest audience so far.
As they adjust to their new life inside an electrified fence, the bears are showing themselves little different from any other confined wild creatures, zoo representatives said. "I'm teaching them how to scrounge for food," ZooMontana senior keeper Krystal Whetham said as the animals dug around for fruit hidden in their snowy enclosure.