NYS DEC Reacts to Amherst Bear Death

Wildlife Biologist: "It's very difficult to rehab adult wild black bears"

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AMHERST, N.Y. (WBEN) - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation defended Amherst Police's decision to put down the black bear rummaging through the Amherst and Getzville areas for the last two weeks.

"The police department has the responsibility to ensure public safety and it's perfectly within their jurisdiction to dispatch nuisance wildlife that they deem as a threat to public safety." Ryan Rockefeller, a wildlife biologist with the DEC, said. "They have that right and they need to make that decision. We definitely did not direct them to do so and they don't need our direction to do so."

Rockefeller said the situation was "unfortunate" and added that there was no better way out of the situation.

READ MORE: Memorial Displayed for Amherst Bear

Social media criticism of Amherst Police and the DEC is that they did not tranquilize the bear and rehabilitate it. The bear was, instead, shot using a patrol rifle.

"It's very difficult to rehab adult wild black bears," Rockefeller said. "I won't say it's impossible."

Rockefeller said immobilizing the bear is a risky endeavor to both the animal and humans. 

"It's an anesthesia," he said. "With humans, you go through many tests and you know what folks are allergic to and what types of medications. With wildlife, we do not. So there's always a large risk when immobilizing animals. On top of that, free ranging animals, such as this bear out on the landscape, can cover a lot of ground from the time it's darted with an immobilizing drug and the time it would lose consciousness. It would obviously be afraid and scared and it could literally take off on a b-line run. Anything in its way, be it a person or a road, it would go through."

He said wildlife can be amazing resilient when faced with injuries and that he would not have been surprised if the bear made a recovery. 

Police used the term "euthanasia" when describing the death of the bear. Rockefeller said that situation may or may not have been euthanasia.

"I did not see videos of the bear," Rockefeller said. "Maybe it had gotten itself into a worse condition with its injuries. It may not have been moving as well as it had been before. If it got itself into a more dangerous area where it was more of a threat to the public and much less able to move around because of its injuries, then yes, but I really cannot say." 

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