by Vikki Hopes and Neil Corbett, Abbotsford News
The black bear was unlike any that the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) had previously encountered.
Officers who were called to the 35000 block of Sandy Hill Road near McKinley Park at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday came across a creature that had no fear of them, said Const. Ian MacDonald.
They tried chasing it away, making loud noises and even spraying it with a fire-extinguisher-sized canister of pepper spray, but the bear wasn’t leaving.
It continued to ramble through backyards, sometimes climbing onto balconies and over fences to get at bird feeders and other food sources.
“It was only focused on getting food and it was viewing humans as an inconvenience to its efforts,” MacDonald said.
The APD contacted the B.C. conservation officer service, but they were did not attend, he said.
Meanwhile, the bear was causing increased public safety concerns. At 11:10 p.m., it was killed after multiple shots were fired from a police patrol rifle.
MacDonald said officers felt they had no other choice.
“It absolutely wasn’t one of our first 10 options to put the bear down, but it was not going away,” he said.
Sandy Hill Road resident Brandon Deutsch said the bear created a lot of excitement in the normally quiet neighbourhood on Sunday. He shot video of it going through his backyard at about 2 p.m. Then he saw it take his neighbour’s birdfeeder off the tree, holding it with a paw as he walked.
“He was three-legging it across the yard,” he said.
He said police warned residents to stay indoors as they attempted to scare off the bruin using pepper spray, and he accepted that officers only shot the animal as a last resort.
“It was reasonable what they did,” he said
Another area resident, Todd Struthers, said on social media that the bear was shot about 200 feet from his bedroom window.
“Unfortunate for the bear, but it apparently had been running around neighbourhoods all day. Just couldn’t take the hint. Feel bad for the cop, but he had to do it,” said Struthers.
MacDonald said that when the APD responded to previous bear sightings, the bear would either be gone when they arrived or it would run away.
He said police would have preferred to have a conservation officer on scene with the proper equipment and training to handle the situation.
“Police are here to deal with people,” he said.
Conservation officer Don Stahl said he set two live traps for the bear – one on Wednesday near Pratt Road, and a second on Saturday in the Auguston area. In both cases, the bear had been in residential yards.
However, he said catching and releasing the bear was not an option after its behaviour on Sunday. Up to that point, it was scared away by people. By Sunday it was not scared away even after being pepper sprayed. Going on decks, and even scratching on windows, is simply too close to humans.
“If we would have captured that bear, it would have been put down,” said Stahl. “We completely support the police in their decision.”
Stahl said a conservation officer did return a call about the bear at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, but was told it had left the area. It returned later that night.
He is confident it was the same bear seen in urban areas earlier this month. He predicted the creature would show up in the Sandy Hill/Bateman Road area.
MacDonald said the bear’s carcass was removed by the public works department and will be turned over to the conservation office should they want it.
NOTE: The attached video was contributed by neighbour Brandon Deutsch as the bear in question wandered across his backyard on Sunday afternoon.