It was a sad ending for a black bear that wandered into downtown on Monday. After several hours of waiting and watching, the black bear was put down.
According to conservation officer Dave Webster, he starting receiving calls about a mature male black bear wandering into town around 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Shortly after, the bear climbed up a tree in front of the Grand Forks Credit Union and across from city hall, where he proceeded to stay for several hours into the afternoon. This was a bear Webster had received many calls about for the last week, including one incidence of the bear getting into a car.
While people gathered around and took photos, Webster said city workers and police tried to keep the area clear. Webster said the presence of so many people further agitated the bear, discouraging him from leaving the tree.
Webster said that eventually the decision had to be made to put the bear down, given the risks it posed for public safety.
“If he came down and someone startled him, that [responsibility] lies with me and no one else,” Webster said. “It’s easy for people to say we should have left him … and it would have been fine. That might have happened. But if it hadn’t happened, whatever did happen would be my responsibility.”
Webster said its important to remember that no one wants this outcome for wildlife, and it is as much a “people problem” as it is a bear problem. The community needs to take responsibility for attracting the bears to town, including putting their garbage out too early before pick up and not picking the fruit on their trees. At this time of year when bears are bulking up for the winter and food becomes more scarce, that behaviour is irresponsible, Webster said.
“If we clean up our act this bear has no reason to be here,” he said.
The incident has sparked a great deal of backlash, especially on Facebook, with accusations being levelled at Webster and many commenting that they are ashamed of the treatment of wildlife. Webster said that the provincial policy he must follow does not allow for trap and release in cases of adult male bears because of the risk they pose and the likelihood that they will come back into town, especially when they have been reported in town before.
“Someone could have been seriously hurt or worse.”