Metro

Officers kill bear near Pike in Newton

Explanation cites urban setting

Police shot and killed a bear (top left) in Newton Sunday.
SANJAY SALOMON FOR THE GLOBE
Police shot and killed a bear (top left) in Newton Sunday.

Early Sunday, a spry young black bear made his way up a tree in Newton near the Massachusetts Turnpike. By about 7:30 a.m., the bear was dead on the railroad tracks below, shot by the Massachusetts Environmental Police with a Remington 870 shotgun.

A spokeswoman for the Environmental Police, Mary-Leah Assad, said in a statement that attempts to tranquilize the bear, which was in thick foliage high in the tree, were unsuccessful.

“Tranquilizing was too difficult to accomplish,” she said, noting that the tranquilizer guns have a limited range.

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The decision to kill the bear, a male about a year old who weighed between 100 and 125 pounds, was “because of the proximity to the MBTA lines, Mass Pike, and the urban environment and population,” Assad said. The decision was made by the senior Environmental Police officer at the scene.

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It was not clear why officials did not wait for the bear to come down to tranquilize it. Repeated requests to talk directly to officials were unsuccessful.

The case raised questions about why the animal was killed.

“I’m a little shocked by the news,” said Newton Alderwoman at Large Greer Tan Swiston, who lives close to the site where the bear was killed. “I’m not an animal expert, but I need to understand why they thought that’s what they needed to do.” She added, “I’m waiting to see what their explanation is.”

Ward 4 Alderman Jay Harney, of the Auburndale section of Newton, said the incident was “kind of sad.”

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“I felt kind of bad that the bear was killed,’’ Harney said, “but I don’t know all the facts, so who knows.”

Assad said more information could be forthcoming on Monday.

It is not the first time a black bear has strayed into urban territory near Boston. Last June, a black bear meandered around Cape Cod, was caught, and was relocated to Central Massachusetts.

But then it made its way back east and was recaptured in Chestnut Hill. The bear was shot with a tranquilizer before falling from about 80 feet onto the ground, where no padding had been put down. It was relocated west of Boston.

Some communities use different methods to subdue bears that wander into populated areas.

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In Colorado last spring, authorities faced a similar situation with a bear that had climbed a tree on the University of Colorado campus. That bear was tranquilized and fell from the tree onto thick padding that had been placed on the ground.

Todd Houston, who lives near the site of the shooting in Newton, saw the drama unfold.

“The bear was taking his time; I saw it climb up the tree about midway, then when the police showed up, it went up higher,” he said.

Lieutenant Eric Fricke, a spokesman for the Newton Fire Department, said the bear was in a tree when the Fire Department arrived at the scene. An officer with the Environmental Police climbed up a Fire Department ladder to get a better look at the animal.

After more information was obtained about the bear, Fricke said, the environmental officer “ended up going up the ladder and shooting the bear from the top of our ladder.”

At 7:27 a.m., State Police stopped traffic on the turnpike for about two minutes as the bear was “neutralized,” State Police said.

A photograph posted on Twitter and video posted on YouTube showed the dead bear bundled in greenish netting by the tracks.

Tom O’Shea, assistant director of wildlife for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said “there is a broader trend” of black bears, in particular young males, moving east in Massachusetts.

“We’ve seen that the population has increased over time and with that, we have an expanding population moving eastward,” he said.

O’Shea explained that males stay with their mother and their siblings for about two years and then start to move on, typically at this time of year.

Brian Hourihan, a Weston police dispatcher, said there had been a number of bear sightings reported by Weston residents over the past week and a half, but in each instance, the bear was gone by the time police arrived.

Sergeant Tom Galvin of the Wayland Police Department, said his department had some reports of bear sightings about a week and a half ago.

“We did have a bear in town, but that was way back on May 21,” Galvin said. He said, generally speaking, there appeared to more bear sightings recently.

“It just seems like there are more coming this way,” he said.

Assad, the spokeswoman for the Environmental Police, said the carcass of the bear shot Sunday was given to a local sportsmen’s club, “so the meat could be salvaged.”

Globe correspondents Gal Tziperman Lotan and Sarah N. Mattero contributed to this report. Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.