(Update) Public calls for apology after police shoot, kill bear in Newton tree

A black bear that was in a tree near the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton was shot and killed by Massachusetts Environmental Police early Sunday. PHOTO: NEWTON POLICE
A black bear that was in a tree near the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton was shot and killed by Massachusetts Environmental Police early Sunday.
PHOTO: NEWTON POLICE

Police in Newton shot and killed a bear that was in a tree near the Massachusetts Turnpike early Sunday morning after attempts to tranquilize it were unsuccessful.

The bear was perched on a limb above the highway near the intersection of Washington and Eddy Streets in Newton.

An officer approached the bear with a fire truck ladder and fired two tranquilizer darts, which failed to subdue it. After the bear was shot, it fell onto train tracks below, and was shot again.

Police said they decided to kill the bear due to public safety concerns, but that excuse hasn’t sat well with the public.

Animal lovers react to the bear's untimely death.
Animal lovers react to the bear’s untimely death.

Metro Boston reached out to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for comment on the bear’s untimely death.

“I don’t want to fault the police in this instance for making a decision they felt was in the best interest of citizens.  Those are always very difficult calls to make,” said Rob Halpin, a spokesman for MSPCA and & Angell Animal Medical Center.  “I would say, however, that we should think about the bear and what drove him to climb the tree: he likely climbed the tree to avoid humans and to stay safe.  So if there were a number of people at the base of the tree there’s no way he would come down.  But the odds are very high he would have come down at night when the crowd dispersed and he felt safe.  And the odds that he would have posed a threat to people at that point are very, very low.”

Halpin said the MSPCA would like to see other strategies used to remove “problem bears” in Massachusetts. They include:

  • Using humane aversive conditioning strategies such as frightening bears with firecrackers.
  • Shooting bears with rubber bullets, which frighten the bear and cause pain, but not injury.
  • Chasing bears with trained dogs. Karelian bear dogs are often used for this purpose.
  • Relocating bears to more appropriate locations.

 

Newton police have not publicly addressed the Sunday incident, except for a Facebook post Sunday that was later deleted. The post said,  “They tried several time to tranquilize the bear but in the end, they had no other choice. We are very saddened by this.”

Earlier in the day, around 7 a.m., Newton Police wrote a lighthearted statement on their Facebook calling “the little black bear” “a visitor.” Read the full post below:

Good Morning everyone. It’s a busy Sunday here in Newton. First of all we have a visitor this morning. The little black bear is visiting. He’s excited about the big game last night. He is in a tree on Washington St. Please keep your distance if you happen upon the scene. We are waiting for people from the Environmental Police to come and get him. We don’t want him to get scared and fall onto the train tracks.

Environmental police said they gave the remains to a local sports club “to salvage the meat for use by its members.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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