COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio – A bear attacked and killed its caretaker at the home of a man who kept dangerous, exotic beasts and ran afoul of animal regulators a few years ago by staging wrestling matches between bears and humans.

The bear in the attack southwest of Cleveland was not one that owner Sam Mazzola had used for wrestling, officials said. His license to show animals had been revoked, but he still kept dozens of bears, wolves, tigers, lions and perhaps coyotes. The state said Mazzola had no violations for owning animals under Ohio regulations.

The bear was out of its cage for its feeding Thursday evening by Brent Kandra, “which was normal for this particular bear because the caretaker and the owner had been around it so much,” Lorain County Sheriff’s Capt. James Drozdowski said.

Mazzola used a fire extinguisher to force the bear back into its cage.

“We don’t know whether something startled the bear or what prompted the bear to get aggressive with the caretaker,” Drozdowski said.

Kandra, 24, of Elyria died Friday morning at MetroHealth Medical Center, the coroner’s office in Cleveland said. The coroner said the tentative cause of death was “sharp and blunt injuries to the body consistent with a bear attack.”

A rescue squad took Mazzola to a hospital Thursday night with an unspecified medical problem that Drozdowski said was not from any injury.

Mazzola said he was the only witness to Thursday night’s attack. He declined to describe the attack but said the bear was the victim’s favorite.

“It’s one that he played with constantly, every time that he was here,” Mazzola said.

Whether the bear will be euthanized will be up to the victim’s family, Mazzola said. “I want them to know that Brent loved the bear very much and I’m sure the bear loved him very much,” he said.

Mazzola, who had filed for bankruptcy this year and had convictions for illegally selling and transporting animals, returned to his home around noon Friday.

Authorities will investigate before deciding on any criminal charges.

Kandra was an experienced worker who helped Mazzola maintain the Columbia Township compound, Mazzola’s attorney, John Frenden, said Friday.

The property held about seven to nine bears and 20 wolves, and possibly a lion and three or four tigers, Drozdowski said.

Neighbors said he also kept coyotes.