PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Two bison who lived at ZooAmerica, part of Hershey Park, were among the casualties of flooding in central Pennsylvania, a zoo spokeswoman said on Friday.
Esther, 15, drowned on Wednesday, caught by rapidly rising waters from the nearby Swatara creek and run-off from flooded roads, and her brother Ryan, 13, had to be euthanized, said spokeswoman Mindy Bianca.
The deaths set off a firestorm of criticism on the zoo's web site blog called "zookeeper," where more than 150 people posted comments.
"How many days does it take to move two bison out of an exhibit that's known to flood?" asked one anonymous writer.
"It seems that if there were exhibits next to a creek that had a history of flooding that there would have been a flood protocol in place or at the very least, up to date exhibits that wouldn't serve as death traps in case of an emergency," said another.
Bianca said zookeepers tried to help the bison, and some handlers were "up to their chins" in rising water that filled the animals' paddock.
"The bison were in danger, and our employees were in danger," she said.
She said the water went from inches deep to feet deep in a matter of minutes.
(Reporting by Dave Warner, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)