Toronto police defend killing of bear wandering in suburban neighbourhood

Toronto police shot and killed a bear in a Scarborough backyard early Saturday after it wandered through a residential area for nearly four hours. The incident caught the homeowner by surprise.

Police hearing complaints over shooting bear dead near McCowan and Middlefield Roads

This photo taken in Yoho National Park, near Takakkaw Falls in 2013, depicts a black bear. Toronto police shot and killed a black bear early Saturday in a Scarborough backyard. (David Wilder)

Toronto police shot and killed a bear in a Scarborough backyard early Saturday after it wandered through a residential area for nearly four hours.

Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook, a media relations officer with Toronto Police Service, said police received several calls about the bear starting after 10 p.m. ET on Friday night. The bear was first spotted near the area of Tapscott Road and Finch Avenue East, a suburban neighbourhood in the northeast part of the city.

It was seen walking around the neighbourhood, making its way through backyards and going through garbage cans. One resident said it banged on the door of her home. According to unconfirmed reports, the animal was an adult black bear.

Douglas-Cook said officers from 42 Division located and tracked the bear. Police then called the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for help but no officials were available to deal with the animal. Finally, police deployed its Emergency Task Force and ETF officers shot and killed the bear at about 2 a.m. The bear died in a backyard near McCowan and Middlefield Roads.

The bear was shot and killed in this backyard near McCowan and Middlefield Roads in Scarborough. (Paul Smith/CBC)

"There were calls that were made to the Ministry of Natural Resources. As you would imagine, this is not something that is common for our region. Unfortunately, they did not have any resources to send to assist us at that time," she said.

"As you would imagine in a situation like this, our priority is public safety. In the interests of public safety, officers from the Emergency Task Force had to shoot the bear. It was dispatched, as we say," she said. "That was the option that was available to us."

Toronto Police Service's 42 Division, which includes the area where the bear was shot, is receiving calls from residents angry about the bear killing, she said.

She said the emergency task force is "more equipped" than general patrol officers to deal with the bear because ETF officers are trained to deal with high risk situations.

There was a four-hour period between the first sightings and the killing of the bear because police wanted to explore options before resorting to lethal force, she said.

"There was a lot of thought that was put into it before we had to take the steps that we did," she said.

Officers do not have access to tranquillizer guns that could have been used to sedate the animal, she said.

"Typically, we don't have an issue with wildlife being in local areas here. And so, no, tranquillizers are not part of our use-of-force options," she said.

The incident caught the homeowner by surprise.

When Jim Li went to bed on Friday night, he never quite imagined being woken up to the news that a black bear had made its way into his backyard and had been shot dead by police.

It was about 2 a.m. Saturday morning, when he heard a knock at the door. 

"We just killed a black bear in your backyard," he said officers told him.

Earlier Friday, Jim Li heard from a friend about reports of black bear in his McCowan Road and Middlefield Road neighbourhood. Hours later, he would find it lying lifeless in his yard. (CBC)

Earlier that day, Li heard from a friend about reports of black bear in his neighbourhood.

"I don't know how that guy got this far into the city," Li told CBC Toronto, adding that raccoons, rabbits and even a possum have been seen in his neighbourhood. "But not a bear."

"There's a bunch of blood back there," said Li. "I have to hose that down later."

There were no reports of any people or pets being injured.

Police could not say where the bear came from, its sex, or whether a post-mortem examination would be performed to try to determine if it was suffering from any abnormalities.

Members of the public had been warned to stay away from the area and not to approach the animal. 

The Toronto Zoo, which is located less than four kilometres from where the animal is alleged to have been seen, had informed police that it was not missing any bears.

With files from The Canadian Press