Questions raised about killing of black bear in N.S. community

At first, Marilyn MacDonald wasn't sure what the noise was.

"I was just doing my housework," she says, "and I heard a really loud bang, and it sounded like a shot, but I wasn't sure."

Nervous, she stayed inside, and then a neighbor told her a bear had been shot and killed on the public path that runs right behind her house on Nordic Crescent.

She said she had no idea it was happening. Other residents in the area told CTV News they heard multiple gunshots, but didn't know what was going on until afterwards.

"A warning would have been good because there's so many little children that use this path and we got four schools right off the ends," she says.

According to a number of posts on a neighborhood Facebook page, the two-year-old male black bear had been spotted roaming around the Lower Sackville area recently, and was captured on camera on Sunnyvale Crescent.

The Nova Scotia RCMP says officers responded to several calls about an injured bear in the area around 10:15 Monday morning.

Police say the bear appeared injured when officers located it on the path.

"When the bear saw the officers, he started going towards them," says N.S. RCMP public information officer Cpl. Lisa Croteau, "and due to safety of the public in that area, officers shot the bear."

The RCMP says with homes and schools in the area, it was concerned about the risk to public safety.

Wildlife technicians with the provincial Department of Lands and Forestry arrived afterwards to take the dead bear away.

News the bear had been killed raised criticism from some area residents online.

"Why didn't they tranquilize the bear, instead of shooting it?" says Nicole Pearson-Nearing. She lives in nearby Beaver Bank, N.S, where she has seen bears before.

"Here in Nova Scotia we have a lot of black bears, why can't we rehabilitate them? Hope for Wildlife has been trying to do this for a long, long time."

"I also come across them when I'm out recovering lost dogs, and I've never had once had any kind of aggression," she adds.

Similar concerns about how bears are dealt with in Nova Scotia were raised last year, after the province came under fire for killing two bears in separate incidents.

Last September, a young bear that had been hit by a car was euthanized by wildlife officials in front of a mother and her children.

Earlier that year, an orphaned cub that had been taken in by Hope for Wildlife was also euthanized after being seized by the province.

Hope Swinimer says she has waited a year to hear from government on her application for permission to rehabilitate bears at her rescue centre.

"Every once in a while, (I've been) checking in to see if a decision has been made, and we're just being told to be patient," she says.

In the case of this bear, Swinimer says she would be surprised if the animal was truly showing any aggression.

"There's certain behaviors that are normal for black bears that aren't signs of aggression," she says.

She says knowing what to look for in bear behaviour can make a difference in these types of situations.

Wildlife technician Butch Galvez says the province has tranquilized and relocated bears before, and has even treated minor injuries in bears before returning them to the wild.

"Yesterday, unfortunately, we were not able to. We did not have reports of the bear until about 20 minutes before RCMP responded," he says. "So we actually didn't know the bear was there, nobody called."

"In the past, we've had two bears from Lower Sackville that were sedated and successfully relocated."

Although, he adds, relocation is a "last resort."

Galvez says its not unusual at this time of year for young male bears to wander and explore their surroundings.

But he says the bear's limp -- and its close proximity to people – left officers little choice.

"Every year I do receive one or two calls of young male bears that enter urban areas, usually they can find their way out," says Galvez.

"But in this case, with the injury and the stress, unfortunately it wasn't the case."