Officials with the New Hampshire Fish and Game on Thursday defended shooting dead two bears that were running to a busy roadway, saying they posed a danger to motorists.
New Hampshire Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau said a biologist shot the bears Tuesday because they were running into traffic on Route 3A in Manchester. Agents first responded to reports that the bears were in a tree early in the day and left hoping they would eventually leave with their mother. They did come down but remained in the area in Manchester near an apartment building, retail stores and homes. When spotted again, the bears took off running toward Route 3A and were shot dead.
"He shot them so they wouldn't cause a traffic accident," said Normandeau, describing the unidentified biologist as someone with decades of experience and not "somebody we dragged off the street, gave a gun and said go shoot problem bears."
"He didn't shoot these bears because he wanted to. He shot because of legitimate concern for public safety which is our responsibility," Normandeau said. "Now, you never know. He could have let them run out there and see what happened. But 3A is a pretty crazy road."
Residents of a nearby apartment complex, including Sandy and John Pelletier, said they heard the gunshots and were concerned that the biologist shot so close to where people live. The Manchester residents questioned why the biologist didn't use a tranquilizer.
"I find them shooting the bear, the person shooting the bear between two apartment complexes, with a couple hundred apartments between us, that violated every rule that I know," John Pelletier said.
Normandeau dismissed suggestions that less lethal means could have been used. On Thursday, officials tranquilized another bear cub in Manchester and took it out of a tree, but he said that was a different situation.
"There isn't an alternative in a situation with two bears running," he added. "The things were running flat out. It's not Wild Kingdom you know what I'm saying. You need a bear sitting stock still to hit it with a dart."
Normandeau said the situation illustrates the reality in New Hampshire where bears and other wildlife like deer and turkeys are increasingly showing up in populated areas and sometimes coming into conflict with humans.
He estimated that they get up to 1,000 calls about bears each year and that up to five bears are killed annually by state agents. Another two or three dozen are killed by private land owners, including three cubs shot and killed last month after they and their mother got into a beehive in Tamworth.