Circus bear mauls trainer in front of screaming audience members

Officials in Russia are investigating after a circus bear attacked its trainer during a live performance, injuring the worker and sparking panic among spectators.

Horrifying footage of the Wednesday incident shows Yashka, a 660-pound, 16-year-old brown bear, pushing a wheelbarrow through the center of the ring during a performance by the Anshlag traveling circus, the New York Times reports.

After the bear's trainer, Ruslan Solodyuk, leads the massive creature to the other side area of the arena, Yashka suddenly attacks the man, grabbing him by the torso and slamming him to the ground.

Yashka continues mauling Solodyuk as another unidentified member of the act kicks the bear to try and stop the attack. Screams of panicked audience members, many sitting with small children in chairs with no barriers between them and the raging animal, can be heard throughout the circus tent as spectators begin to flee the scene.

WARNING: The following video contains material some may find disturbing:

Eventually, an electric stun gun was employed to end the attack, and both the bear and Solodyuk escaped with relatively minor injuries, according to the New York Times.

Solodyuk later told Russian news site Daily Storm that Yashka was on his last tour as a performer and may have been irritable due to old age and joint pain.

Lyudmila Misnik, the circus' manager, also claimed audience members who ignored commands to refrain from taking photos with flash may have provoked the bear.

Russia's Interfax news agency said the Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation against the circus on a charge of providing unsafe services, according to the Associated Press.