Fish and Wildlife officials explain decision to shoot bear

On Aug. 22, state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials shot and killed a black bear that had climbed a tree in a Lacey neighborhood.

The bear’s death prompted an outcry from Olympian readers in the form of phone calls, emails and Facebook posts.

One Facebook user asked, “Why would this bear be killed?????”

Another wrote, “If humans would just mind their own business and go the other way and keep their small animals inside ... the bear (could) decide (sic) what it needs to do for survival!”

Other people were concerned about the method used to kill the bear.

Lacey resident Tom Curcio said he witnessed the incident, and believes Fish and Wildlife officers used an M4 carbine to shoot the bear. He said that in his hunting experience, the caliber of bullet used in the gun is too small to humanely kill a bear.

“They pumped four rounds into the bear,” Curcio said. “Four rounds into a bear is ridiculous.”

The Olympian asked Fish and Wildlife spokesman Craig Bartlett to clarify details about the incident, and Sgt. Greg Haw’s decision to shoot the bear:

Why did Fish and Wildlife feel compelled to shoot the bear?

Several factors contributed to Sgt. Haw’s decision to have the bear shot. First, as he explains in his report, the bear had climbed about 100 feet up a tree, out of range of the tranquilizer gun. Bears can stay in a tree for days, so the officers didn’t feel they could risk allowing this one to come down unattended — especially in a suburban neighborhood with three nearby schools about to start classes. In addition, Sgt. Haw strongly suspected this bear was the same one recently captured and released at JBLM — one known to avoid box traps.

Given these circumstances, (Fish and Wildlife) and Lacey Police Department representatives agreed that lethal action should be taken to protect public safety.

Why not just wait for the bear to come down from the tree and tranquilize it, rather than shoot it?

As noted above, that scenario could play out over several days, with a constant risk that the bear could get away and injure someone in the neighborhood. Haw notes in his report that the bear had already had a close encounter with a bicyclist and a automobile.

What kind of gun was used to shoot the bear?

The officer used a high-powered Colt 223 semiautomatic rifle to shoot the bear in the tree, and another officer used a 12-gauge shotgun to make sure the bear was dead. These rifles are standard issue for (Fish and Wildlife), and are widely used by police departments and wildlife agencies throughout the country.

Amelia Dickson: 360-754-5445