SPRING PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — The shooting of a black bear in Minnetonka near a popular lakeside restaurant has many people taking to social media.
Many of our viewers asked why the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shot the bear with a gun and not a tranquilizer. WCCO’s Reg Chapman spoke with the DNR about these questions.
Conservation officers in Minnesota, and many other states, stray away from the use of tranquilizers.
The black bear was spotted near Lord Fletchers in Spring Park Saturday afternoon.
“He skedaddled across the road. I mean they could have shot him a thousand times,” said Al Kozicky.
Al Kozicky and his daughter, Ava, watched as police and conservation officers tried to keep the bear away from hundreds of people.
“Everyone lost track of him about four or five times including the cops. Everybody was walking up ‘Where did he go, where did he go’ and they started shutting that road down, that road down,” Kozicky said.
“A ton of people in the area, we deemed it a public safety threat or hazard and when it reaches to the threshold we put the bear down,” said DNR Conservation Officer Greg Salo.
Officer Greg Salo says they tried to give the bear room to leave the area.
“There was no place for it to go, surrounded by roads, people and a lake, and there wasn’t a good place for it to go,” Salo said.
Witnesses say they heard two gunshots, and it was over. The bear was gone. Salo says conservation officers do not carry tranquilizer guns or the power drugs used in them.
“Once you hit them with a tranquilizer, they just don’t go to sleep in two seconds. It can anger them, it can make them charge, it can make them run the other way. You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Salo said.
Salo says the powerful sedative used is federally controlled. A miss could leave a powerful drug unattended.
Because the drug has an expiration date, it can expensive to keep on hand. That’s why many states don’t use tranquilizers. Salo says more than 90 percent of the time, bears that wander into the urban center typically walk away.
The DNR says they put down one bear a year on average. That’s compared to the 15 to 20 complaints they get about bears.
They tell us they donate meat from the bears to needy families in the area.