Escape from Lincoln Park Zoo!

Escape from Lincoln Park Zoo!

I went by Lincoln Park Zoo this weekend, and something reminded me of the story of the sea lions that escaped and ended up waddling down Clark Street.  I figured that was a pretty uncommon phenomenon for the zoo, right? Not so. This week’s ‘Did You Know, Chicago?’ is about the dozens of animals that have broken out.

In 1879, the first bear pit was built. Unfortunately, its residents quickly learned how to climb the walls and were frequently found roaming the park at night.

The first major escape was in 1889, when the 18 sea lions housed in the new sea lion pool escaped and wandered into a restaurant on Clark Street. All were returned to the zoo, except one.

There was another sea lion escape in 1903. Big Ben hoped over the sea lion house gate and dove into Lake Michigan. He actually tried to board a small boat! The zoo offered a reward for Big Ben, but unfortunately his body was found washed up on a beach in Michigan.

Duchess, the zoo’s first elephant, ran right out of the park in 1892. She destroyed a brewery door and went nuts inside a local bar. Zoo keepers, residents and police chased her down Cleveland Avenue where she wrecked the board sidewalks. Zookeepers finally caught her by getting ropes around her legs and tying her to a bunch of trees.

There have even been a few nasty gorilla escapes. In1983, a 450-pound gorilla named Otto scaled a 10-foot glass barrier. He was strolling around the zoo when zookeeper shot him with a tranquilizer gun. In 1986, three gorillas got through a door someone left open, and one of them bit the keeper’s hand!

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