Police who shot the bear Saturday night near East Side houses said the safety hazard it posed left them no choice.
Those who live in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood on St. Paul's East Side aren't strangers to wildlife. There's plenty of semi-wild area along the Mississippi River to the south, and foxes, deer and bald eagles are regularly seen in the area. But Saturday night, residents were caught off guard when a black bear was killed just a few feet from their front doors.
St. Paul police were called about 7:30 p.m. Saturday by a couple who had been walking their dog in the 100 block of Maria Avenue when they spotted an adult-sized bear near some houses, said police spokesman Howie Padilla.
As officers arrived, the bear climbed a tree near the back of a house at the intersection of Maria Avenue and Cherry Street. Officers shot the bear several times while it was in the tree and then again after it fell to make sure it was dead, Padilla said.
They had to, he said. Because the bear was so close to people, pets and busy roads, it posed a safety hazard, he said.
"Whenever we have a situation where a wild animal is in an urban area ... we take all those factors into consideration," Padilla said.
Animal control officers took the bear's body away, Padilla said.
No other bears have been sighted recently in the area, and it is not known how the animal came to be in the neighborhood, he said.
The house next to where the bear was shot is home to the Northwestern Alano club, used as a meeting place for several 12-step programs.
Jerome Smith, 54, who rents the upper floor, said he heard about five gunshots Saturday night and went outside and saw police cars.
"I was like, 'What's going on? ... Somebody on the loose?'" Smith said.
Then he spotted the bear's body lying against the tree trunk.
"It's sad, but it had to be done," Smith said of the shooting. "Bears don't usually walk around in your neighborhood."
Brett Ramer, 49, who lives on the block, said he wished the police had more options. "It's too bad," he said. "I'm sure the bear's only crime was loss of habitat and hunger."
Animal sightings aren't unusual in the neighborhood. Lisa Record, 47, who lives across the street from the house where the bear was shot, said, "We get a ton of wildlife. ... We go camping, but I see more here."
Bear sightings in the metro area, while relatively infrequent, are not unheard of, especially in the spring, when natural foods are less plentiful than they are in late summer and fall. In one week this May, more than 10 sightings were reported in the east metro; one was even seen in Apple Valley last spring.
Still, it's unusual for a bear to be found wandering this late in the winter, said Chris Niskanen, director of communications for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "In all likelihood, this bear should have been hibernating right now," he said.
While the death of an animal is unfortunate, bears can pose a threat in urban areas, Niskanen said. "Bears do not belong in the urban core of the Twin Cities," he said.
Tranquilizing an animal is difficult and requires the proper equipment and circumstances, he said.
"The public has this image of tranquilizing animals as something that's easy to do, but it's not," he said.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495