Police: Father in Como Zoo incident comes forwardby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — St. Paul police say a man who allegedly placed his own toddler within striking distance of a cougar at the Como Zoo has come forward and reported the child was not seriously injured.
Witnesses told zoo staff that the man lifted the boy over the exhibit's protective railing Saturday afternoon. A cougar pushed through wire mesh enclosure and scratched the boy.
Authorities are investigating the incident as a matter of child endangerment.
The father and son left before zoo staff arrived at the scene. But the man has since come forward to let authorities know the child was not seriously injured. Police are not releasing his name, citing the ongoing investigation.
Como Zoo spokesman Matt Reinartz says staff are monitoring the female cougar for any kind of peculiar behavior.
"You know, this is something for the cougar too, because all of a sudden it has something or somebody in her space," Reinartz said. "So, a poor decision like that -- it affects the individual, but it also affects the animal."
Reinartz says the father lifted his son over a three-and-a-half-foot railing and placed him close to the mesh enclosure where the cougar scratched the child.
Police spokesman Paul Schnell says it's too early to say whether the man will face criminal charges.
"The ultimate issue is: Was this a poor parenting decision? Or was there such an absolute disregard for the child's safety that it does warrant some intervention?" Schnell said. "And that will be determined through the course of a joint investigation by law enforcement and child-protection officials."
Schnell says the father took his son to the hospital, and he did not need any stitches or other medical treatment. The boy has been released back to his father.