A grizzly bear which appeared in a recent Will Ferrell film killed a 39-year-old trainer with a bite to his neck and had to be subdued with pepper spray.
Three experienced handlers were working with the bear at Randy Miller’s Predators in Action facility when the animal attacked 39-year-old Stephan Miller, said San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Beavers. Stephan Miller is Randy’s cousin, she said.
The centre’s staff used pepper spray to subdue and contain the bear and there were no other injuries, she said.
A county Fire Department traumatic injury response unit was called to the scene but could not revive Mr Miller.
The Department of Fish and Game will decide the bear’s fate after an investigation, Tiffany Swantek, a spokeswoman for the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station, told the San Bernardino Sun yesterday.
Sheriff’s Sergeant Dave Phelps said the bear is a five-year-old male named Rocky. The Predators In Action website says Rocky is 7ft 6in (2.3m) tall and weighs 700lb (317.5kg). He appeared in a scene in the film 'Semi-Pro' in which Ferrell’s character wrestles a bear to promote his basketball team.
Randy Miller, a stuntman and operator of Predators In Action, was not immediately available for comment. Randy Miller doubled for Ferrell in the bear wrestling match, according to the centre’s site.
In an interview in February, Randy Miller called Rocky “the best working bear in the business,” the San Bernardino Sun reported on its website.
In the same article, Randy Miller also said: “If one of these animals gets a hold of your throat, you’re finished”, according to the paper.
The centre, located in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, says it has two grizzlies, and also trains lions, tigers, leopards, cougars and wolves for uses ranging from film and TV to advertising and education.
Randy Miller has 25 years of experience training animals and his facility has had a perfect safety record, according to the website.
It was not immediately known how long Rocky has been at the facility.
Randy Miller won a World Stunt Academy Award for his work wrestling tigers in the 2000 Oscar-winning blockbuster 'Gladiator' and performed stunts with his animals in films like 'The Postman', 'The Island Of Dr Moreau', and 'The Last Samurai'.
He also helped recreate animal attacks for National Geographic documentaries and the Discovery Channel.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to the bear.
Denise Richards, who works with wild animals at Moonridge Zoo, a sanctuary for injured and homeless wildlife in nearby Big Bear Lake, said trained animals which turn on their handlers are often destroyed.
“You can train them and use as many safety precautions as you can, but you’re still taking a chance if you’re putting yourself in contact with them,” she said.
“It’s still a wild animal. Even though it may appear that the bear attacked for no reason, there was a reason. I’m sure Randy understands why it happened. They’re not cold-blooded killers.”
Native grizzly bears are extinct in California.