Why did Ottawa police shoot and kill a bear in Kanata?
Residents and councillors are looking for answers after Ottawa police shot and killed a black bear that was spotted near homes in the west end over the past few days.
Ottawa police shot and killed the bear Monday evening in a backyard in Kanata’s Bridlewood neighbourhood. The approximately two-year-old bear had been spotted near homes and in backyards eating birdseed.
Police said in a statement that when officers arrived Monday night, they found the animal close to homes and “deemed it to be a significant public safety risk.”
Officers worked to safely remove the bear from the area, but “after exhausting all available options, it became clear that the animal could not be safely relocated,” police said.
“Regrettably, the bear had to be put down to ensure the safety of residents in the surrounding area.”
SEVERAL AGENCIES HAD BEEN TRACKING BEAR
The shooting followed days of efforts by several agencies, including the city of Ottawa, to humanely trap and relocate the bear.
The bear was first spotted in the Bells Corners neighbourhood last Wednesday.
On Friday, Ottawa Bylaw said the city and the National Capital Commission were working with the province’s ministry of natural resources to humanely trap the animal and return it to the wilderness.
Then, earlier Monday, a senior bylaw official told staff in an email that the bear had been spotted in the Bridlewood area of Kanata and was not showing signs of aggression.
“He is calmly looking for food having recently come out of hibernation,” said the email obtained by CTV News. “He’s literally just gnashing on birdseed coming from feeders in those yards. When it runs out, he wanders off. He has a yellow tag on his left ear. Totally chill bear, I might add, as they often are.”
Whenever there was any movement of vehicles or humans, he would go in the opposite direction, the email added.
The NCC set up two live traps in the Greenbelt near where the bear was spotted. Ontario’s ministry of natural resources was also involved, advising residents to call their Bear Wise Hotline.
With all those agencies working on relocating the bear, it’s unclear what happened that put police in a position to shoot it.
Susan Molson, who had seen the bear in her backyard, told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron said she was devastated to hear the bear was killed.
“It was beautiful, young, playful—I would say friendly, it didn’t pose any harm to us, it was just on a hunt for food,” she said.
She questioned why the bear had to be killed.
“If they can shoot a bullet, they can also shoot a tranquilizer,” she said. “I know certain steps have to be in place in order for that first initiation of getting the bear into a safe place for it, but to me, that completely fell through.”
One of the issues with tranquilizing, according to experts, is that it’s unsafe to do it in the dark. The late hour and poor visibility during the police response would have prevented a safe tranquilization.
A city of Ottawa spokesman declined an interview request, saying they couldn’t accommodate one because it was an Ottawa police-led call.
CTV News has reached out to the ministry of natural resources for comment.
Police said Monday night that although the bear’s death was not the outcome anyone wanted, “it was a necessary action to prevent harm to our community.”
“We appreciate the concern that has been expressed about this incident, and we want to assure the public that we will continue to work closely with our partners to promote wildlife safety.”
- READ MORE: City working to trap a bear spotted in Ottawa’s west end
COUNCILLOR ‘DISTRESSED’ BEAR WAS KILLED
Coun. Laine Johnson, in whose ward the bear was originally spotted, said she was “distressed” to learn that the bear had been killed.
“When we have residential neighbourhoods that are bordering on these green spaces, euthanizing an animal, killing an animal, is not the solution we are going for,” she said.
“I believe this could have been a success story for the city of Ottawa, but unfortunately a different decision has been reached.”
Johnson said she has been on the phone with senior police leadership, but when she asked why the bear was impacting public safety, she was “unable to receive full details.”
Coun. Allan Hubley, in whose ward the bear was shot, said there are “a lot of questions” on both sides of the issue.
“There’s residents that are wanting to know: What’s the policy? How did it lead to end up being shot versus trapped?” he said. “And then there’s others that worry about the safety or their family and their pets, when there’s bears climbing in and out of the yard.”
Hubley said it’s too early to tell what happened Monday night and where the “breakdown” happened after so many agencies were tracking the bear for days.
“Something happened last night that police made the decision that for the safety of the nearby residents that the bear had to be put down,” he said. “We’re trying to piece it together and we’ll find out what exactly happened here.”
Hubley also asked residents to consider removing food sources from their backyards, including birdseed.
“Don’t put your bird feeders out this early in the spring. It’s like candy to a bear. … Hold off a couple of weeks.”
– with files from Jackie Perez, CTV News Ottawa
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