Escape artist bear Ben under lockdown at St. Louis Zoo

Those small-town blues must have been getting to him!

A bear who was born in the Big Apple is on lockdown at the Saint Louis Zoo after escaping his outdoor habitat twice this month.

Four-year-old Ben proved himself smarter than the average bear by breaking out of the River’s Edge “immersion exhibit” on Feb. 7.

“Ben got out by meddling with the steel mesh in just the right spot of the outdoor habitat, causing a cable to give way, which then allowed him to work his way out,” the zoo said in a statement last week.

The Missouri zoo’s workers “made the habitat even more secure by adding stainless steel cargo clips rated at 450 pounds tensile strength,” the zoo said.

But even that wasn’t enough to contain the “young and adventurous” Andean bear, who was born at the Queens Zoo and shipped to St. Louis in 2021.

On Thursday, Ben crawled through a hole in the mesh fencing where it’s attached to supports, KMOV4 TV said.

Ben the bear.
Ben was born at the Queens Zoo and shipped to St. Louis in 2021.
Facebook/Saint Louis Zoo

Visitors were hustled to safety in “various indoor facilities” as workers scoured the grounds to find the runaway after Ben went missing around 1 p.m., the zoo said.

About 50 minutes later, the critter was spotted about 100 feet from the enclosure and shot with a tranquilizer dart, KMOV said.

“It’s only the second time it’s happened in the history of having that particular habitat,” zoo director Michael Macek told the station. “Ben will not be out again until we are absolutely sure he won’t be able to get through the mesh again.”

Andean bears are also known as spectacled bears because of unique, individualized markings on their faces that can resemble eyeglasses.

They’re the only bear species native to South America and live in the mountain forests that stretch from Bolivia to Venezuela.

They’re listed as “vulnerable” — one step shy of endangered — by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Gland, Switzerland, with a decreasing population of just 2,500 to 10,000 mature animals left in the wild.

Ben was transferred to the Saint Louis Zoo on the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Andean Bear Species Survival Plan.

After the transfer, the Queens Zoo announced his parents, Nicole and Bouba, had two more cubs, bringing the total number of their offspring at the time to five.

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