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Gut-shot bear upsets Dettah resident

Christine Grimard/Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - A Dettah resident is expressing outrage and disgust after watching a lone wildlife officer fire several shots at a young black bear, which scampered around wounded and bleeding as dozens of people watched.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Jimmy Beaulieu and other Dettah residents helped wildlife officer Patricia Handley haul the bear into her truck after witnessing her shoot the animal Sunday afternoon. - photo courtesy Kathleen Dahl

The sub-adult male bear was one of two killed by wildlife officers over the weekend - one in Yellowknife, the other in Dettah.

According to Henry Beaulieu, it took nine shots from a 12-gauge shotgun and well over 15 minutes to kill the Dettah bear, which wandered into the community Sunday at around 4 p.m. and drew a crowd of approximately 30 people who watched as a wildlife officer shot it.

Henry Beaulieu said the first shot went into the animal's guts, which were hanging out as it ran.

"It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen," said Beaulieu.

"No native person would take nine shots to kill a little cub.

"With a big bear, the bear probably would've attacked her," he said, adding that the officer, Patricia Handley with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, had to reload after four or five shots.

Beaulieu also criticized the officer's decision to shoot the bear with so many people and homes close by, and wondered why she didn't have backup officers to assist her.

Roy Dahl, who captured the shooting on camera, said "it was kind of silly" that it took nine shots to bring down the bear. But given the size of the crowd gathered to watch, and the bear's close proximity to people and their homes, he said the officer likely didn't have much choice other than to kill it.

"She went with the safest option available to her," said Dahl.

"To tranquilize the animal, it would've taken what, four or five minutes? It would've been too dangerous."

He described the bear as about one-and-a-half times the size of a husky dog.

Senior wildlife officer Raymond Bourget said it's not unusual to have just one officer respond to these calls.

With just one wildlife officer on call over the weekend, he said it's not out of the ordinary for a wildlife officer to shoot a bear by oneself.

With a crowd gathered around the bear cornered in Dettah, Bourget said it likely wasn't safe for the wildlife officer to tranquilize it.

"If all the people went into buildings, that could be an option," said Bourget. "But with a tranquilizing dart you've just inflicted pain on it, and the tranquilizer can't take effect for five to 30 minutes."

Bourget could not confirm how many shots it took to kill the bear, but said usually officers can kill one in one or two shots. Conditions such as the mood of the bear, and availability of a safe shooting area can affect how many shots the officer needs to take.

After the bear finally died, several community helped the officer haul the animal into the back of her truck with a rope.

Beaulieu said in the old days, a wandering bear shot in the community would be prepared for a feast but the officer drove away with this one.

Another bear was shot by wildlife officers in Yellowknife on Saturday.

It was seen by a person walking along the Frame Lake trail the day before. When officers responded to the call, they saw two bears swimming across Frame Lake away from town, said Bourget.

A large sub-adult male was sighted around Matonabee and Gitzel St. on Saturday. An officer arrived to find the bear eating garbage in front of someone's house.

While the bear was briefly driven away when the officer arrived on scene, it soon went back to eating garbage. Bourget said this behaviour demonstrates a lack of fear of people.

Bourget said at that point the officer had no choice but to kill the bear.

"It would be like catching a thief in my yard and releasing it in your house," said Bourget.

He said when bears associate the city with food, they need to be destroyed because of the high likelihood that it would return.

Bourget said the latest onslaught of bear sightings is probably a result of a poor berry season. The bears are eating as much as possible to gain weight for the winter. A hot and dry summer has led to less wildberries than last year, driving the bears to look for other food sources.

It was no coincidence that both bears that had to be shot were sub-adult males, said Bourget. With those bears trying to find a home range, they are attracted to populated areas that have food and no other bears to chase them around.