London

Black bear survives standoff with police and wildlife officials in Byron backyard

London police and wildlife officials spent their day in a waiting game with a black bear who was up a tree in a West London neighbourhood.

After a fifth tranquilizer, the bear retreated from the tree and was moved to safety

A black bear that wandered into the city sits on a branch high above half a dozen police officers behind a townhouse complex in Byron. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

Nearly 14 hours after a black bear was spotted in West London, police and wildlife officials were able to tranquillize the animal and bring it to safety. 

Officials were told that the bear was seen at about 7 a.m. in the area of Oxford Street West near the bridge west of Sanatorium Road. 

Shortly after that, the bear wandered into a condo complex in Byron. George Stamas said he was sitting on his back porch with his wife having a coffee when the bear ambled through his yard. 

"My wife said 'there's a bear.' I said, 'Are you sure?' She said 'yeah.' It cut across just inside the bushes there and I said 'yeah it's a bear' and it went up a tree."

A police tactical officer peers into the canopy with a pair of binoculars as authorities wait for a black bear. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Police arrived with half a dozen officers brandishing carbines and shotguns and cordoned off an area behind the condo complex.

At around 11:10 a.m., the bear reportedly climbed down the tree. According to police, out of fear for the residents who gathered in the area, an officer shot at the bear, causing it to climb back up. Police say the wound appeared to be superficial. The Ministry of Natural Resources arrived on scene 10 minutes later.

Over the next nine hours and as sunset approached, officials were concerned about getting the bear down before dark. A veterinarian from the National Wildlife Centre was called in to assist, bringing an additional tranquillizer gun.

After four unsuccessful attempts to put the bear to sleep, a fifth tranquillizer dart caused the animal to retreat toward the ground. Officials could be heard inside the bush, yelling to keep it in the tree until it fell asleep, and they could catch it.

Shortly after 9 p.m., a thud was heard from the woods. An officer with the ministry said they were able to use a parachute-like device to soften the bear's fall. It took about 25 minutes before the bear was extricated from the brush and assessed by a veterinarian.

A black bear was pulled from the brush behind a Byron condo complex to be assessed by a veterinarian. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

"We are doing a medical assessment and processing the bear," said Melody Cairns, the resource operations supervisor for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Aylmer. "The bear seems to be in good condition, so we're getting prepared to relocate it elsewhere in Ontario."

Cairns said its too early to know where the bear will be released.

Bear was rooting through garbage the night before, neighbours say

Ronnie Schivas holds the piece of plywood that the bear must have pried off to get at his garbage can the night before. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Ronnie Schivas said he believes the bear was in the condo complex the night before, rooting around in people's garbage. The noise was so loud, it jarred him out of bed. 

"It was just this really loud ruckus out here," Schivas said. "It was so loud I just yelled out the window for it to go away."

Schivas said the bear managed to knock off a 25-pound bag of dirt sitting on top of a piece of plywood blocking access to his garbage bin. 

"He managed to knock [the bag] off and dig through the plywood to get through the garbage," he said. "When I came out in the morning, I knew it wasn't a raccoon that done it, but I'd never thought it was a bear."

"Seeing the bear now it kinda adds up," he said. 

Bear left claw marks on a number of back decks

Bear claw marks were spotted in a deck board in a west London neighbourhood Monday morning. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Several neighbours also found their garbage cans overturned and claw marks on their back decks. Christine Taylor, who also lives in the complex, said she believes the bear has paid a visit more than once this week. 

"I think he was in the garbage," she said. "I heard noises and two chairs were turned over the last night."

A crowd of dozens of people had gathered by Monday afternoon, with several amateur wildlife photographers snapping pictures of the stubborn bear as it sat in the branches. 

The bear spent most of the day in the treetop, despite several attempts by police and wildlife officials to get him down, including shooting the animal with several tranquillizer darts. 

Even though the animal appeared to be losing consciousness, it clung on to the upper branches appearing as if it would fall several times but regaining its balance. 

"I'm worried he'll fall," said one woman looking up at the bear desperately clinging to a branch. "Poor little guy." 

Wildlife officials with the Ministry of Natural Resources said while a call about a bear wandering into a city is common up north, it is extremely rare for black bears to wander into a city this far south.

A police officer holds a carbine as he watches a bear in a nearby tree. The black bear had wandered into the backyards of a suburban condo complex in London's west end Monday. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

If you encounter a bear, officials say to remain calm, slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight until it leaves. If the bear doesn't leave, wave your arms and make a noise with a whistle or air horn if those items are available. 

Sean Brown was one of many wildlife photographers who flocked to capture the rare sight of a black bear in the city Monday. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Butler

Reporter

Colin Butler covers the environment, real estate, justice as well as urban and rural affairs for CBC News in London, Ont. He is a veteran journalist with 20 years' experience in print, radio and television in seven Canadian cities. You can email him at colin.butler@cbc.ca.

With files from Travis Dolynny

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