Remembering Binkymania

A headline today caught my eye: A New York man was hospitalized after he was mauled by a tiger. Even Alaska doesn’t get Tiger Maulings, so I had to investigate. It seems that a 25 year old from Mahopac, jumped off the Wild Asia Monorail ride at the Bronx Zoo, then leapt over an electric fence and into the tiger den. Rumor has it, the young man was doing a research paper on whether cats really do play with their food. Turns out that they do.

The story brought back fond memories of Binky. Binky was an orphaned polar bear cub rescued off Cape Beaufort and then sent to live at The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. He immediately became the zoo’s most popular attraction.

Cue the tourists:

Back in 1994, when I was still a young Cheechako, a 19 year old Binky made headline news. A tourist from Australia climbed over two protective fences to get right up to the bars of Binky’s enclosure to get a prime photograph of the bear. Instead, Binky quickly grabbed himself some prime photographer. The mauling was caught on tape, and I believe it is still available on youtube. The woman was eventually pulled away from the polar bear, although Binky was able to grab her shoe off her foot. He kept it for three days

Less than two months later, two teenagers (allegedly) went into the zoo after hours and decided to end a night of partying with a swim in the bears’ pool. They were stripping off their clothes near the bears’ enclosure, when one of the boys was grabbed by one of the bears. The second boy was able to pull his friend away from the bars, but not before he suffered severe lacerations to his legs. Although zoo officials said that they couldn’t be sure if it was Binky or Nuka, his mate, that mauled the 19 year old, Binky was the only bear with blood on its face.

Binky, already well regarded in Alaska, instantly became a Cult Hero. T-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers popped up everywhere, usually with the image of the bear & his trophy tennis shoe and the words: “Send more tourists— This one got away”. The entire state came out in defense of the Ornery Bear. There was sympathy towards the wounded, of course, but if you’re going to do something that stupid around a polar bear — well, you kind of got off lucky. The Fairbanks Firefighters Association, whose logo was a polar bear, even changed their logo to a polar bear holding a bloody shoe in its mouth, in order to show solidarity with the bear in Anchorage. They sold t-shirts with the new & improved logo for ten bucks.

Damn, I really wish I still had my Binky t-shirt.

Photo by Rob Layman

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends. View all posts by icefogger

2 responses to “Remembering Binkymania

  • Andy Clark

    Mike: When I was in High School in Oklahoma, our town had a small zoo… The star of the zoo was an older lion who mainly laid in the shade and didn’t bother anyone…. once in awhile he would roar and that was just about his best trick. One night a drunk Oklahoman(nothing is stupider than a drunk Oklahoman) went to the zoo climbed over two fences to keep people away from the animals and then offered the lion a sandwich through the bars….. The lion not having much experience with sandwiches didn’t know where the sandwich ended and his arm started so the lion placed both in his mouth and then ran away from the cage bars…. The friends who were with the drunk ran for help and when help arrived they had a hell of a time getting him out over the two fences(they didn’t have the key to unlock things)… Best part was after he got out of the hospital they charged him with “cruelty to animals” and he had to pay a big fine….. Every time I go home someone brings this up and asked whatever happened to that guy even though that was 50 years ago!!

    Hope you have a great winter, Andy

  • icefogger

    Great lion story Andy. I hope it was able to at least keep the sandwich for its troubles.
    Yes, I do know how Oklahomans are with alcohol… we have our fill of them lurking about Alaska.

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