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Outrage erupts after police shoot bear dead
Social media users are expressing their outrage after police shot a black bear as it climbed down a tree in a backyard north of Toronto.
The bear was climbing over fences through several yards on London Road in Newmarket, Ont. on Monday morning. After being chased by police for several minutes, it climbed up a tree in one of the backyards.
York Regional Police had been waiting for a representative of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to arrive, trying to keep the bear in the tree by banging chairs and sounding a police car siren.
Eventually, the bear began to climb to the ground, police said, adding that it was agitated and likely dehydrated.
Officers considered using a Taser on the bear, but said they couldn’t get close enough without compromising their safety.
"Officers do not have tranquilizers or other options for dealing with wildlife. We could not let the bear harm a person while waiting for MNR," police said in a message on Twitter.
In a statement sent to media after the incident, York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said the officers "regret the incident," but had no other option than to shoot the bear.
It is not clear how many times the bear was hit, but four gunshots were heard in the area at approximately 8:45 a.m. Ministry representatives arrived three minutes after the bear was killed.
The bear was fatally wounded by the shots.
Many people who were following the story through the media said they were outraged to hear that the bear had been killed, asking why it took so long for MNR to arrive on scene.
"This is infuriating," one Twitter user wrote to CTV Toronto.
"Where was the ministry? Incompetence at its best," another wrote.
A third called the decision "ridiculous and sickening."
Several people vented their frustration at both parties: "Police will say anything to justify what they did. MNR should be held accountable for this disaster and YRP investigated," one wrote.
"Hard to see who is at fault here. Looks like everyone dropped the ball," another said.
MNR Supervisor John Almond said he'd first heard about the bear in Newmarket over the weekend, but said that they couldn't attempt to subdue it until it was "stationary."
Almond said he was in touch with police on Sunday, waiting to hear a specific location.
"Up until this point, the bear had just been running from yard to yard. It wasn't even seen since (Sunday) morning at 8:30."
York Regional Police had also been in contact with the University of Guelph, a horse veterinarian, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, local animal control crews, and the Toronto Zoo, according to a statement sent Monday.
"Only MNR staff are equipped and trained to respond," police said.
Almond said he had been called at 6:20 a.m. on Monday, and headed into the office located in nearby Aurora, approximately 7 kilometres south of Newmarket.
He said he didn't know police had actually cornered the bear in a tree until he arrived at the office, so crews weren’t called in until approximately 8 a.m.
"We had to mobilize staff, get staff to come in to the office in Aurora, get our equipment loaded up and we were here at 8:45," Almond told reporters on scene after the shooting.
"Unfortunately the bear decided it was going to come down out of the tree and because of public safety concerns, the police felt that they needed to act," Almond said.
York Regional Police said they will be following up with the ministry to improve the response to incidents that may come up in the future.
Officers said bears are rare in the area, but it is not unheard of for the animals to venture into residential neighbourhoods in the spring to search for food.
Police warned the public that most bears are brought out by improperly stored garbage.
"Bears quickly learn to associate human residences and campsites with a readily available food source," a statement said.
If bears are spotted, observers are asked to not approach the animal and to call police or animal services immediately. In a life-threatening situation, call 911.