Bear was previously caught and tagged by NJDEP
Updated with NJ DEP response 2:30 pm
The Union Beach Police Department requested the assistance of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife to tranquilize and relocate the male bear that was eventually shot and killed on Saturday night, according to Councilman Charlie Cocuzza.
Cocuzza said that he was on the scene for over four hours with Union Beach Police officers. He stressed that the officers “did everything that was suggested by Fish and Wildlife.”
During a phone interview with Cocuzza this morning, he said that UBPD received a call from a resident reporting the presence of a bear at Dock and 3rd Ave at approximately 9:30 pm on Saturday, according to the source. By 9:50 pm police had spotted the bear and started evacuating the fishing area at the point.
A Fish and Wildlife official told the UBPD, “We don’t come out on weekends,” and “this is outside our protocol.“ The police were advised to evacuate the area, turn off the lights and that the bear would likely move to the marshland along the Raritan Bay. UBPD secured the area from vehicular traffic, turned off their emergency lights and the bear shortly thereafter came down from the tree on Edmunds Ave, on an empty lot between two residences, and headed towards the marsh.
After the bear came down from the tree, officers tracked the animal about 30 yards down Henry St towards the Monmouth County Outfall Authority property and the marsh. Rather than proceed toward the marsh, were it would have been out of harm’s way in about 100 yards (and likely headed towards Keyport and Cliffwood Beach according to the source), the bear turned right and doubled back towards the residential area. While moving through backyards on Herbert St.,the 350-400 lb, 6 foot long bear moved through wooden fences “as if they were made of tooth picks” and “crushed a metal fence” that it was climbing over. The bear was tracked to the densely populated area near Florence St and Poole Ave.
The officers, hoping not to have to kill the animal, passed on two or three clean shot opportunities, Cocuzza said. When the bear “presented itself” in the backyard of an empty home of Florence Ave, the decision was made to take down the animal.
The Union Beach Police Department is not equipped to take down a 350-400 lb. bear. Bears have exceptionally hard heads. The first of seven shots ricocheted off the bears head. It took six more shots to kill the bear.
After the bear was killed, officers discovered that it had been previously tagged on its upper gums by NJDEP with the numbers 9121 (see photo). Obviously this bear has been previously tranquilized and relocated by State Officials.
Seven or eight members of the Union Beach Public Works Department came out to the Florence Ave residence to remove the bear’s body from the property. Rather than use a backhoe and cause property damage, the DPW workers wrapped the body in a tarp and dragged it off the property to an awaiting truck.
When Police officers informed NJDEP that they had killed the bear, the State official was unfazed and said the department would have the body picked up for disposal after the holiday weekend. The body is now locked in a dumpster on borough property.
Cocuzza posted the following statement on his facebook page this morning:
“Last night, the UBPD received a report of a bear in the area of Dock and 3rd Street. Upon investigation, this report was determined to be true. The bear was located on Edmunds Ave, in a tree between two residential homes.
Upon locating the bear, the UBPD secured the area and immediately contacted State Fish & Wildlife to request a team to come to Union Beach and tranquilize and relocate the bear. The request was denied. State Fish & Wildlife, “this is outside of our protocol” was the response we received.
State Fish & Wildlife did provide suggestions as to how to deal with the situation, evacuate all bystanders from the area, turn off all lights and the bear should go away and most likely will head toward the marsh.
The UBPD followed these suggestions to the letter. The streets were cleared of bystanders, lights of emergency vehichles were turned away from the bear and officers followed the bears’ movements from a safe distance.
Unfortunately, after 4 hours of safely monitoring the bears movements, the bear headed toward and eventually made its way to Florence Ave, a main road, very populated with residents and weekend traffic.
This decision was NOT made lightly. Everyone involved is saddened by the outcome. However, the safety of residents and their families must always take top priority.”
MMM called the Fish and Wildlife hotline to request to speak with a spokesman. Our call has yet to be returned.
UPDATED WITH NJDEP’S RESPONSE:
Bob Considine, spokesperson for the NJ DEP provided the following statement to MMM:
Last night, Division of Fish and Wildlife did advise the Union Beach Police Department to allow a black bear that had been in a residential area to find its way out on its own, to disperse any crowds, to message to residents to remove bird feeders, bring in garbage cans and keep doors closed through a reverse 911 and to euthanize only if they feel someone is in imminent danger, as is the right of any local police department.
These are the instructions the Division of Fish and Wildlife provide to many municipal police departments for residential bear sightings, and is also messaged in bear training sessions that DFW biologists provide to local law enforcement.
In a large majority of cases, black bears do find their way out on their own and extract themselves from residential areas and back into the wild. Case in point, the bear that was euthanized last night, we believe was last tagged in Stillwater Township in Sussex County two years ago. Bears do travel extensively and often they move at night, particularly during this time of year.
Additionally, Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists do not tranquilize bears using chemical mobilization drugs during nighttime hours out of concern for staff safety and public safety.
For more tips on living with black bears, please visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2017/17_0031.htm
Additionally, Considine said that the notion that Fish and Wildlife biologists do not work weekends is ridiculous and offensive…perhaps something got lost in the translation. Considine acknowledged that F&W advised the Union Beach PD that they would not be picking up the bear’s body over the weekend. He said that if the Union Beach situation had been a Category 1 bear situation, Fish and Wildlife biologists would have shown up. The Category 1 Black Bear Rating and Response Criteria is bears that are a threat to public safety and property, according to NJDEP’s Bear Facts.