PA: PGC not disputing killing of bear

Uniontown, Pa. – Pennsylvania Game Commission officials say they
are not going to second-guess the killing of a black bear that
wandered too close to a public gathering here Aug. 28.

Uniontown police shot the 350-to 375-pound male after it approached
an Italian Heritage Festival in the downtown area, despite repeated
efforts to chase it away, said Uniontown police chief Jason Cox,
who delivered the fatal shot.

“I was working the festival when the first call came in that a
large bear was roaming the Huggins Mobile Home Park, and it didn’t
raise my curiosity too much.

But a second call came in that it was near the Belmont Inn, and
then a third call that it was in Marshall Park, which is close to
the festival, so I alerted officers to try to locate the bear,”
said Cox, who notified the Pennsylvania Game Commission, too.

“Their estimated time of arrival with a dart gun was an hour and a
half.”

When the bear was spotted again, local officers attempted to chase
it by running parallel to the animal along railroad tracks, “but he
kept doubling back on us,” Cox said.

“He got frustrated enough that he finally shot up over a hill into
a neighborhood, and you could hear dogs barking and people
screaming.

“It was the middle of the day and he was creating a panic, so I
made the decision that I would take a shot if I could get
one.”

The opportunity came after the bear climbed a tree, as a crowd
gathered to watch. “I knew if I didn’t get a brain shot, I’d be in
trouble because I had a 556 AR-15, with a 223-calibre,” he
said.

“The bear looked at me from 25 yards away, and when I knew I had a
steady shot, I took it.”

The Game Commission allowed local law enforcement to butcher the
bear and distribute the meat. Uniontown officer Chuck David gutted
the animal, and said its stomach was surprisingly empty.

“All it had in it was a handful of berries,” said David, who hunts
bears. “And in through the rib cage it looked a little thin.”

Wildlife conservation officer and information specialist Tom Fazi
noted that the bear was probably hungry and drawn to the festival
by the scent of food.

“We’re between seasons for natural forage,” he said. “The heavy
berry crops have dropped off, and bears will switch to mast, but
the mast hasn’t fallen yet.”

Fazi said tags on the bear indicate it was caught as a 125-pound
yearling on July 9, 2010, in West Deer Township, Allegheny County,
and translocated to the mountains of Fayette County.

“It wasn’t a problem bear or a habitual offender, but it was
probably getting into trash and bird feeders, so we moved him,”
said Fazi. “This is the first record we have of a problem.

“The bear may have been accustomed to people if he was living on
the fringes,” Fazi added. “And he apparently got himself into a
predicament he couldn’t get himself out of.”

Fazi said his agency isn’t going to question whether the bear
should have been killed because there are a lot of factors for law
enforcement to consider.

“Treed’ doesn’t mean they should have waited to shoot,” Fazi said.
“If we’d had the luxury of our officer being there, we might have
had other options. But we weren’t on the scene, so we’re not going
to second guess those who were.”

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