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Reaction to the shooting of a polar bear in Newfoundland

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Members of the CBC Community in Newfoundland - and across Canada - reacted to the news of charges filed against a Coachman's Cove man who shot a polar bear dead in April.

Terry Fitzgerald has been charged with firing a rifle too close to a home, shooting a polar bear out of season and shooting a bear without a licence.

Fitzgerald says he believed he was protecting his children and his community on the Baie Verte Peninsula on the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

The highest rate comments on our story were skeptical of Fitzgerald's story.

  • "I don't know how far away his kids were from the bear, but I would be surprised to find out that he didn't have time to get them in the house and call the police," said gottawearshades.

  • "Get your kids inside and call the authorities. If you had time to go to your father's house to get a gun, there was no imminent threat," said selenius.

  • "I could never admit to wanting to see such a grand creature killed and I live in a community that has seen two walk through it in the recent past and the one killed in Greenspond was likely one that I had unknowingly walked near a couple of days prior to its appearance in that town. What the gentleman in this story does not tell us is what other actions he may have taken to get the bear to leave the area on its own accord," said NFDUKE.

  • "I am sorry but I completely disagree with this man shooting the polar bear. We have to learn to live with our wildlife. I say he should be charged, and maybe people will think twice next time they want to Kill another protected wildlife. Where I live I see black bears all the time, and I do not go out shooting bears, because they crossed the back of my property," said LindaFrench.

But many commenting on the story said that others were too easily judging Fitzgerald's motives and reasoning in the shooting.

  • "To all those making comments comparing the situation to dealing with black bears, or saying that the bear wasn't a threat: The polar bear is the only bear that is 100 per cent a predatory carnivore. Small children would make a much easier meal than trying to chase down a seal," said Canadanavian.

  • "If he just shot the bear for the sake of shooting it, the charges are valid. If he was genuinely concerned about his or his children's safety then you have to do what you have to do. Sometimes it is more appropriate to ask for forgiveness than to wait for permission," said Ron Alberta.

  • "Mr. Fitzgerald did the right thing. He should not be charged. Any reasonable man would have done the same thing," said MarEng67.

  • "I disagree," replied Voska1. " He may have done the right thing and should have fair trial where if what he claims is true will end in a not guilty verdict. It's up to the crown to prove his story false or argue why his defense is not valid."

And as H. O'Doone points out, we don't know everything about this story.

Facts totally unknown by everyone commenting on this story:

The distance between Mr. Fitzgerald and the bear,
The distance between Mr. Fitzgerald and the children,
The distance between Mr. Fitzgerald and the rifle in his Dad's house,
The distance between the children and the bear,
The distance between the children and the house,

Seems to me those facts are pretty fundamental here. Without them, you can't really make a call about whether this was legitimate self-defense.

Let me just say that even if Mr. Fitzgerald fired too soon, I'm sure he was motivated by a reasonable desire to protect his children and his neighbors. It's hard to think totally straight when your kids are outside and the world's biggest predator suddenly shows up. I think a lot of urban types are making some unfair snap judgments on this guy because they don't like guns, don't like people defending themselves (they believe only the police should be allowed to do that), and believe rural people are fundamentally yahoos.

Thank you, as always, for following our coverage. Please feel free to comment on or challenge any of these points and continue the conversation below.

Tags: Community, Community Reaction, Newfoundland & Labrador

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