Police had no choice but to kill a 2-year-old bear roaming a White Bear Lake golf course because it posed a threat to the many people nearby at the time, a state Department of Natural Resources spokesman said Thursday.
The male black bear was shot by city police near the Manitou Ridge Golf Course's 15th fairway Wednesday night. It is believed to be the same one spotted earlier in the week in Mahtomedi, White Bear Lake police said.
"There was a lot of human activity going on," said DNR spokesman Harland Hiemstra. "People playing golf, playing disc golf nearby, across the street a baseball game going on."
White Bear Lake police Capt. Randy Johnson said the bear was near Lakewood Hills park and an apartment complex. Also, the fencing on the golf course would have let the bear into the back yards of several homes, he said, adding they were called about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The bear was in a trash bin for a time, then moved into some woods, DNR spokesman Harland Hiemstra said. It was then that police consulted with a DNR conservation officer and decided it was now safe to "dispatch" the animal, Hiemstra said. Officers fired several shots, Johnson added.
Earlier, as the bear ambled about, "people were gathering around taking pictures," Hiemstra said. "Police couldn't keep the people back. One guy wanted to go over and touch it."
One man told police he was within 15 feet of the bear. "That's not a wise thing to do," Johnson said.
Hiemstra said merely tranquilizing the bear was not practical: "It's not the way it works, like on TV."
He said police don't carry tranquilizer guns and then it's "a guessing game" about how much of the drug would take down the animal.
Also, the effects are "not instantaneous. Then the bear is still up and about, runs into traffic and causes a problem."
Johnson agreed that police were not equipped to deal with a bear. The decision to shoot was not taken lightly, he added.
"When it becomes a greater public safety risk, we have to err on the side of safety," Johnson said.
The bear is now in possession of the DNR, and its meat will be donated.
This is the latest of several bear sightings in the east and north metro of late. Along with the one in Mahtomedi, others have come in Blaine and Oakdale.
The golf course's manager, Greg Hubbard, said this is the first bear to wander on the property that he is aware of. "We had a moose one year, but they shot that one."