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Wandering bear is found in Athol, but had to be euthanized

Athol Police Sergeant Christopher Casella kept watch on a black bear near Main Street.

Jared Robinson/Athol Daily News via Associated Press

Athol Police Sergeant Christopher Casella kept watch on a black bear near Main Street.

ATHOL — A bear that had been wandering around downtown Athol since Wednesday night was tranquilized and then euthanized later on Thursday, officials said.

Lieutenant Charles Ziemba and Officer William Woytek of the Environmental Police shot the bear with a tranquilizing dart as it perched in a tree next to the Athol Daily News parking lot, off Exchange Street. The bear fell, but appeared unhurt.

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The animal, which the officer said weighed about 250 pounds, was breathing comfortably as it was loaded into a truck. But because it is active hunting season in New Hampshire and Vermont, the bear had to be euthanized.

The Massachusetts Environmental Police and the Division of Fish and Wildlife have a joint memorandum that calls for any animal that has been chemically immobilized within 45 days of hunting season to be put down, according to a statement from Environmental Police.

Immobilization drugs in an animal’s system are potentially lethal to humans if the animal is shot and consumed. Black bear hunting season is open again in Massachusetts on Nov. 4, the statement said.

Athol police had been tracking the bear since Wednesday night. Police Sergeant Christopher Casella said the animal was first reported in the downtown area about 9 p.m. and remained nearby all night.

“It was at a [loading] dock at Starrett’s [a tool manufacturer] and then in the Lake, Fish, and Crescent street areas,” he said.

The bear eventually made its way to Exchange Street, where it climbed a small tree and later moved to a larger one not far from the Athol police station. It was in the larger tree when it was tranquilized.

Downtown Athol has had several visits in recent years by bears and moose. One of the bear visits proved fatal for the bear, which was shot after authorities became concerned that it was too close to people.

In the past, moose in downtown Athol have been successfully tranquilized and moved to safety.

Globe correspondent Melissa Hanson contributed to this report.

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