Killing of Newmarket black bear a failure of systems

Kerri Martin black bearThe killing of a black bear who wandered into a city north of Toronto has outraged residents – and put a spotlight on a faltering wildlife system in Ontario.

For two days, reports of the bear in Newmarket backyards were collected by police. For two days, residents watched with curiosity as the bear – who at no time made threatening movements toward people or property – moved between yards, likely looking for food.

But on Monday morning, shortly after 6 am, police shot the bear as he climbed down from a tree – and while Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) officials were only minutes away.

York Regional Police tweeted that “officers do not have tranquilizers or other options for dealing with wildlife.”

This is a simple fact. But it’s also a fact that MNR conservation officers and scientists have been cutback over recent years for budgetary reasons. It’s also clear that wildlife encounters in communities bridging rural to urban are going to increase as development continues.

Police services must be trained and equipped to deal with wildlife encounters; provincial governments must make responsible decisions and properly fund and train conservation officers; and we, as a society, must accept that we need to share our spaces with wildlife and not fear them at every turn.

This black bear, who was simply looking for food or a place to rest, was slaughtered because of a failure in wildlife management systems. It’s time for that to change.


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