Two men who apparently had been drinking were cited Saturday for allegedly scaling two 4-foot fences and climbing into the Como Zoo giraffe exhibit.
"They said they wanted a better view of the giraffe," said St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster. "They did smell of alcohol."
Luke D. Odenthal, 21, of New Hope, and Angel Perez Banuet Torres, 23, of Minneapolis, were both cited for trespassing. Perez declined to comment when reached Monday. Odenthal did not return messages.
The incident occurred about 5:42 p.m. Saturday.
A security officer was alerted to the incident when patrons started yelling and pointing, Ernster said.
One man was in the exhibit and the second was jumping a fence to enter it.
"This spooked the giraffes and they started to run toward the sides and away from the two people," Ernster said.
The security officer ordered the men out and held them until police arrived to cite and release them. Ernster said the men complied with orders and that no giraffes were injured.
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory spokesman Matt Reinartz said it's unclear how many of the zoo's four giraffes were in the exhibit at the time.
The men allegedly scaled two 4-foot fences in the giraffe feeding station and climbed down 4 feet into the exhibit, Reinartz said. A sign reading "please do not climb over rail" is posted.
The first man was sitting on a ledge inside the exhibit when the security officer witnessed the second man climbing over the fencing, Reinartz said, adding that they were probably in the pen for about 90 seconds.
"The industry has learned that no matter what height a barrier is … these perpetrators will find a way to breach it," Reinartz said. "People go to great lengths to make poor decisions, and when poor decisions are made, it puts both the individuals and animals at risk."
Odenthal and Perez have been banned from the zoo and conservatory campus for six months, Reinartz said. There are no planned changes to the giraffe fencing.
Giraffes are skittish and flee danger, Reinartz said, but can also cause serious harm.
"If you got kicked by a giraffe, you wouldn't be around to talk about it," he said.
Giraffes can stand up to 18 feet tall, making them the tallest land animal on Earth, weigh 3,000 pounds and run up to 35 mph, said the zoo's website.
Reinartz said he could not recall previous incidents of visitors entering an exhibit. In 2010, a father lifted his 2-year-old son over a railing toward the cougar exhibit, and a cougar pushed through the mesh fencing and clawed them both.