An RCMP officer and an environment officer shot the black bear at the Lanky Court complex of apartments and townhouses on Wednesday morning. Both officers say public safety was a factor in shooting the bear. ((John Perry/CBC))

Yellowknife RCMP and environment officials who killed a small black bear near a housing complex this week said they had no choice but to shoot the wandering bear.

Some residents of the Lanky Court complex near Forrest Drive spotted the bear around 11 a.m. MT Wednesday. N.W.T. Environment Department officials estimate that the bear was a two-year old female.

RCMP Const. Todd Scaplen and N.W.T. Environment Department officer Janice Ziemann followed the bear to a fenced-off area and shot it four times, with the final shot killing it.

Scaplen, who was within six metres of the bear when he fired the first two shots, told CBC News that the bear could have scaled the fence or escaped under it, potentially putting people in danger.

"I was also afraid for my safety and the safety of the [Environment and Natural Resources Department] officer because we were essentially trapped with the bear as well," Scaplen said late Wednesday.

"Given the fact of the schools, the public areas, bystanders, the unpredictable nature of wildlife — just the public safety was also a concern that was running through my head at the time."

Tranquilizer guns may not have worked

Ziemann, who fired the last two shots at the bear, said tranquilizer guns could not have been used in this particular situation.

"Depending on where you hit a bear with a tranquilizer, they can run, they don't immediately go to sleep [or] they can take off and bolt," she said.

In Wednesday's case, Ziemann said "the bear was sitting between a fence and myself and an RCMP officer, and tranquilizing just wouldn't have been an option. It was a safety issue."

In any case, a tranquilizer gun was not available in Wednesday's incident, the RCMP said.

There aren't enough tranquilizer guns to equip every officer who may be called to deal with a bear.  

Ziemann cautioned people to keep a distance when wildlife officials and police are dealing with bears.