Uniontown Police say they had to kill a black bear roaming through heavily residential neighborhoods, drawing tons of public attention Thursday night — “for public safety reasons.”
Uniontown police killed a black bear roaming through a residential neighborhood Thursday night.
Black bears are endangered in Ohio, where the Ohio Department of Natural Resources tracks the population.
Police did not have tranquilizer guns, wildlife officers weren’t there and, Police Chief Harold Britt said, “We had to euthanize it for public safety reasons.”
The state agency isn’t happy about the police action.
“We’re definitely sad that things worked out the way they did,” said Jamey Emmert of the ODNR’s Wildlife Division. “They are an endangered species in Ohio and they are making a comeback.”
But, she said, “We know it was a very heavy residential neighborhood and we understand that human safety is first and foremost. We don’t want to judge the police department and say, ‘This is what should’ve been done and if we had been there,...’ The police were definitely trying to protect the residents. We understand that they had a decision to make.”
Emmert said black bears are typically gentle animals that are “not aggressive by nature. That’s not to say a bear wouldn’t try to protect itself in a confrontation. They will do what biologists call a ‘bluff charge,’ which is to pretend like it’s going to charge at someone.” They typically won’t carry through with it.
Police had no reports the animal had threatened anyone.
Emmert said a woman called ODNR to report a bear tearing down the bird feeders on her porch, which Emmert said is normal. Birdseed is a “component of their diet” along with garbage and pet food.
NO PLACE TO HIDE
Britt said the bear was first spotted in the Uniontown area Wednesday night, but not reported to police until Thursday morning. After 7 a.m. Thursday, he was spotted by residents between Pontius and Sweitzer streets and Cleveland and Mogadore avenues.
“We went out there yesterday morning and couldn’t find it,” he said Friday.
Police had more than a dozen reports after someone saw the animal in a wooded area behind the Rolling Greens Miniature Golf course, where a child’s birthday party was underway, Britt said. The golf course is on Edison Street NW, across the street from the Uniontown Police Department.
Britt said police dispatchers tried to contact wildlife officers, and a police officer and the golf course owner drove to the rear of the golf course property to chase the bear back into the woods.
About six minutes later, police began receiving more calls, Britt said. The bear was back in the Broad Vista Street NW and Judy Avenue neighborhoods, and walking through yards.
Britt said that at some point, the bear walked up onto someone’s deck, and that children were watching from their yards.
Page 2 of 2 - “Our officers tried to ‘push’ the bear back out of the neighborhood, but once he reached Cleveland Avenue, he wasn’t going to cross it,” Britt said. “He headed back into the neighborhoods... We would’ve preferred it would’ve just gone away. We definitely did not want to shoot it, but we had no choice. It was looking for a mate and food, so who knows what would’ve happened?”
The bear, he said, was “definitely scared.”
An officer fired four shots from a patrol rifle, killing the 210-pound bear about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, he said.
ODNR officers arrived an hour later and removed the bear.
Emmert said the wildlife officers believe the bear came from Pennsylvania and that he was about a year and a half to 2 years old, but it was bigger than average. Bears that age usually weigh about 150 to 175 pounds.
Britt said ODNR officers have promised to provide training and other assistance to law enforcement agencies in the area on dealing with future issues involving bears, “and how to deal with bears in ways that prevent us from having to shoot them.”
Emmert said anyone who sees a bear should call the district office at 330-644-2293 and, if possible, provide photographs.
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