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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Bear's hospital visit turns fatal
A black bear is seen on a surveillance camera walking into a Virginia hospital
The bear's hospital visit is caught on camera
A black bear ended up with more than a sore head when it activated automatic doors and wandered into a US hospital.

Startled doctors, nurses and patients saw the 345lb (156kg) animal walking through the emergency ward and into an office full of computers.

Two police officers trapped the bear inside and decided the best option was to shoot it dead rather than try to sedate it and risk an escape.

No-one, apart from the bear, was injured at the Virginia hospital.

Short legs

"I was walking down the hallway and there was a big, black bear coming towards me," security guard Dan Thompson said.

Black bears not always black, can be brown
Can hear and smell far better than humans
Adult males weigh more than 135 kg (300 lbs)
May hibernate up to seven months where food scarce
"He turned and went into the office on the right hand side. I'm glad he did."

It seems that when the full-grown bear walked in front of the Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital in Rocky Mount, Virginia, it triggered a sensor that opens the building's doors.

Ambulance driver Lee Nelson, who was the first to notice the bear, said he could not believe his eyes.

"At first I thought (it was) somebody in a bear costume...But when I saw the short legs, I've seen bears in my life and when I saw it running with short legs, I knew this ain't no joke."

The police officers thought about trying to sedate the bear but fearing it might get free they shot it twice and killed it.

Wildlife experts say black bears, which are protected within the boundaries of US national parks, are usually shy animals.

They are not normally aggressive towards people but some have lost their fear of humans, hunting through rubbish bins and even going so far as to beg for food at the roadside.

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