The shooting of a black bear that wandered for six days with a plastic food jar covering its head in northern Minnesota has prompted angry calls and e-mails to police who shot it and debate in online forums.

The bear, a male about 2 years old that appeared to be starving and sickly after days without food or water, was shot Saturday night by police in the town of Frazee, which was bustling with visitors celebrating Turkey Days. That sighting was the last of several of the bear reported over a period of almost a week.

"With all the people around ... you're never sure what the outcome is going to be," said Rob Naplin, a wildlife supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources in Park Rapids.

Naplin said efforts had been made to trap the bear as it moved from spots in or near Itasca State Park. At one point, the DNR was equipped to tranquilize the animal, "but we never had the opportunity ... because it stayed in forested areas" from its initial spotting July 21 until it met its fate in Frazee, he said.

Naplin said the bear "was in pretty tough condition after not being able to eat or drink for several days."

The 2.5-gallon plastic jar is the type that usually holds candy or popcorn, he said.

Frazee Police Chief Mike Lorsung said that at the direction of a DNR conservation officer, one of his officers killed the bear with one shot. He said his department did not have ready access to a tranquilizer gun and that approaching the animal to try to remove the jar would have been too dangerous. Also, the bear was behind the Baer Building while festivities were going on in front, he said.

On Wednesday night, Frazee police said they have received dozens of e-mails and calls, some from Georgia and California, most accusing them of acting too hastily. But almost no Frazee residents present the day the bear was shot complained, police said.

After the bear was killed, a game warden pulled for some time before the jar came off the bear's head, Frazee police said.

Asked what could be done to prevent a similar incident, Naplin said, "We're always encouraging the public to manage their refuse properly. Bears are opportunist feeders. They get access to human food, they don't know whether it's good for them or not."

Dennis Udovich, whose American Bear Association runs the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary in Orr, Minn., sympathized with the dilemma police faced but said he would have not hesitated to approach the bear, subdue it with a trap device on a pole and remove the jar.

"The officer probably followed the proper protocol," Udovich said.

"It's a sad thing to do [but was] probably the most humane thing to do," he said. "If it would've gotten away, what a [painful] death it would have had." • 612-673-4482 • 612-673-4921