West Saint John resident says bear didn't have to be shot

·4 min read
'Buddy, you didn't need to die like this,' Saint John resident Jillian Kilpatrick told this bear after it was shot by police. (Jillian Kilpatrick/Submitted - image credit)
'Buddy, you didn't need to die like this,' Saint John resident Jillian Kilpatrick told this bear after it was shot by police. (Jillian Kilpatrick/Submitted - image credit)

Residents of a Saint John neighbourhood say they called wildlife officers about a bear in their neighbourhood for four days before police shot it dead within a minute of arriving.

The small black bear, which had also been spotted 1.5 kilometres away near a children's play park on Saint John's west side, was shot by police Monday night on Amy Crescent.

Saint John police spokesperson Sean Rocca previously said officers shot the bear within one minute of arriving on scene because it was "advancing" on them. He said the officers were trying to scare the animal off into the woods.

The bear was shot near Jillian Kilpatrick's backyard. She said residents only called the police after the Department of Natural Resources said they should.

And she didn't want to see it killed.

"There's no need for this bear to be dead," she said.

Jillian Kilpatrick/Submitted
Jillian Kilpatrick/Submitted

She said that starting May 4, when the bear was first spotted, different residents had called the DNR wildlife office and requested a trap.

She said she wanted the bear tranquilized or trapped, and hearing gunshots in her neighbourhood was distressing and unnecessary.

"There was a series of shots, multiple gunshots, not one, not two," she said.

"This is a bear. It's not a dog that's gone to obedience school. Like, if you approach a bear and tell it to shoo, it doesn't shoo."

Where to put a trap

The Department of Natural Resources put up a live bear trap Sunday, two days after the residents of Amy Crescent first called. The trap was set up on Ocean Westway, closer to the Irving Nature Park and in a wooded area. It was set up across a four-lane highway from Amy Crescent.

Kilpatrick said she wants to know why the trap wasn't set closer to her neighbourhood.

Nick Brown, spokesperson for the department, said officers often set only one trap in a given area. He said they set it up closer to the nature park because they don't want to attract the bear to a residential area. It would be safer for people and the bear if the animal could be trapped away from the neighbourhood.

"They picked a strategic area to put that trap."

Why not tranquilize?

Brown said if a forest ranger had been in close proximity when the call came in, they could have come by sooner, but it depends on resources.

Even if forest rangers arrived first, they only use tranquilizer guns in very specific circumstances.

He said officers can only shoot a tranquilizer gun when they're at least 18 metres from the animal, and a bear could often move around before the tranquilizer kicked in.

He said the preferred method would be to trap the animals.

"We did follow the proper procedures," Brown said. "We got a complaint, we set the trap up, were monitoring the trap."

The trap did not catch the bear. On Monday, night residents spotted the bear again, and called the wildlife office again, which Kilpatrick says directed them to call the police.

Brown said DNR would usually tell a person to call the police if the caller expressed concern for their safety.

The police said officers took action based on public safety.

'Bears are sacred animals'

Kilpatrick said some people in the neighbourhood were relieved the bear was no longer coming around their yards, but she was never afraid of it.

She said she has two children under five, and she never lets them go in the woods alone or play in the yard unsupervised. She also stores her compost and garbage indoors and removed her bird feeders when the bear was first spotted.

The morning after the bear was shot, she went into the woods to check on it. She said she's a teacher, and is currently teaching the Indigenous seven sacred teachings, and her students had just studied how the bear is a symbol of courage.

"I felt very compelled to go and pray for the bear and pray for our First Nations people, because this, in my opinion, is not OK … bears are sacred animals," she said.

"I wanted to be there with the bear and just kind of say, you know, 'Buddy, you didn't need to die like this. This didn't need to happen. And I'm sorry that it happened to you.'"

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