ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Como Park zookeepers still are not sure what prompted a man to attempt getting into the cougar enclosure.
On Thursday afternoon, 23-year-old Brian Casey Phillips climbed up a guardrail and onto the first of two steel mesh fences. Police think he was scratched by a cougar when he managed to reach through the second security fence.
"They're beautiful and graceful," zoo visitor Ezra Dass said. "I wouldn't want to be in there with one. They're fascinating. I've never seen a cougar before."
Authorities said Phillips climbed over a steel hand railing and proceeded to reach through two separate mesh fences.
"We got word that an individual was disturbing cougars," Como spokesman Matt Reinartz said. "They (security guards) noticed him standing on the ground leaning against the mesh yelling as loud as he could at the cougars."
Reinartz said Phillips came away with only a minor scratch on the hand and was extremely lucky his injuries weren't worse.
After a 2010 incident, Como added the second mesh barrier for extra safety. Numerous signs are currently posted near the exhibit warning guests to stay off the fence. Still, what they can't fully prevent are the unreasonable actions of someone tempting fate.
"People go to great lengths to make poor decisions," Reinartz told WCCO Radio's Edgar Linares. "When those poor decisions are made, both the individuals and the animals are at risk."
What's even stranger is that Phillips had been in a human cage just hours earlier. He'd just been released from the Hennepin County Jail, and was still wearing a jail bracelet when he was cited for disturbing zoo animals.
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