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Animal activists protest police shooting of bear in Clifton, North Jersey

23 Jul

BY HANNAN ADELY

Cross-posted from here

Animal activists are planning a protest Sunday to condemn the recent fatal shooting of a bear that was seen crossing back and forth on Route 46 in the city of Clifton in North Jersey. The protest will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the intersection of Clifton and Van Houten avenues in Clifton. Animal activists said police should have used non-lethal methods to deal with the situation Wednesday, when the 79-pound male bear was spotted about 2:30 p.m. near Valley Road.

“We think this was complete overkill or overreaction,” said Elaine Dunn, a member of the Bear Education and Resource Group and a Bloomingdale resident. “This cub did not need to be shot.”

City police said the bear had not exhibited dangerous behavior, but was put down in a wooded area because it was creating a hazardous traffic condition by crossing back and forth on Route 46, near Route 3. Detective Sgt. Robert Bracken said the police’s stance has not changed since the day the bear was shot, when he said police did it because of the risk to the public. “At this time, we have no further comment,” Bracken said.

Activists said police should have waited for workers from the Division of Fish and Wildlife to arrive on the scene so they could tranquilize the bear and relocate it to a safer area. They said a deer or dog caught crossing the road would not have been shot with bullets.

One woman who saw the bear in a parking lot outside the office complex where she works in Little Falls said she was “extremely disappointed” with the police use of force. “This little bear cub was clearly lost and hungry, was crossing the road and not harming anyone,” said Jessica Ciccarelli.

But a spokesman from the state Department of Environmental Protection said Clifton Police followed proper procedures.

“It’s at their discretion,” said spokesman Larry Hajna. “Local law enforcement on the scene — they have to make decisions regarding public safety.”

Hajna said the yearling bear was the same one that was seen earlier in the week at locations in Fairfield, Cedar Grove and North Caldwell, where home video captured the bear taking a dip in a residential pool.

Clifton police said the bear sighting was highly unusual for the city of 82,000. The DEP has about a dozen sightings of bears in urban areas like Clifton each year, Hajna said.

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Photo credit: HBarrison