Wildlife Dept. kills bear in Norman backyard after tranquilizers fail

·3 min read

May 20—A black bear that found its way into a Norman resident's backyard Wednesday was killed after all attempts to tranquilize and remove it from a tree failed, local authorities said.

At approximately 9:35 p.m., the Norman Police Department received a call for service about a bear located near the 1000 block of Elmwood Drive.

"Once we arrived on scene, we located the bear in the backyard of a resident," NPD spokesperson Sarah Jensen said. "We established a perimeter and waited for the arrival of animal welfare, then we completed a mutual aid request with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife."

Micah Holmes, the assistant chief of communications for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation, said calls about bears are not rare for Oklahoma, which is home to approximately 2,500 black bears. But calls don't usually come from Oklahoma City metro-area cities like Norman.

"What we hope to do in most situations is to get the public away, get dogs away and let that bear come down on its own and go along and do bear things," Holmes said. "However, this bear was in a really bad spot — he was in a densely populated area surrounded by homes and there was no direction that this bear could go and not get into more trouble than he was already in."

After assessing the situation, the department decided the next best option was to tranquilize the bear and move it away from the metro and back into its habitat, he said.

"We attempted to tranquilize the bear tranquilizer and the tranquilizer didn't take like we had hoped, and when the bear came out of the tree it was mobile, it was on the move, it was injured and it was not sedated," Holmes said. "So, we made the decision to dispatch the bear at that point with public safety in mind."

Holmes was adamant that this was not an easy decision, but the bear had to be killed as it had become a danger to the community.

"We all love wildlife — that's why we're in this business," he said. "The last thing we want to do when we arrive on the scene of a wildlife call is end up with a dead animal. But in this case, given the fact that our primary concern is protecting public interest ... that's not the outcome that we wanted, it's not what we came on to do, we were there for four or five hours, but we had to dispatch the bear."

On the off chance a bear finds its way into Norman again, Holmes urged residents to observe from a distance and call the police and a game warden.

"Call the experts who can help make sure that the bear gets [away safely] and the public remains safe as well," he said.

Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at rgorman@normantranscript.com or @reeseg_3.

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