Police defend bear shooting

Wild animal agitated when police took action

NASHUA – News that police shot a bear Monday night sparked off a furor on Nashua social media questioning why officers killed the bear.

Nashua Police Lt. Thomas Bolton said Wednesday that the officers responding to the bear did everything they could to keep the people of Nashua safe from harm, while also running through other options in a short amount of time.

Bolton has said officers found the bear being followed by a crowd of people who were interacting with it “inappropriately” around 9 p.m. on Monday night. The bear was in the Amherst Street area near Holman Stadium as a Silver Knights game was getting out, and there were children playing in a nearby playground.

“The bear, at that point, was highly agitated, and cornered (by the crowd) and showing signs of fear,” Bolton said.

Nashua officers called New Hampshire Fish and Game twice before taking action, Bolton said. Fish and Game officials did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Nashua officers are not trained to deal with wildlife, and they do not carry tranquilizer guns as part of their standard gear.

“We do not have tranquilizer guns, and we are not trained to use tranquilizer guns,” Bolton said.

Ben Kilham, a black bear expert who runs a bear rehabilitation facility in Lyme, said police officers are typically untrained when it comes to dealing with bears. Though he did not witness Monday night’s incident, Kilham said there may have been an opportunity to walk the bear away from the crowd, and get it back into a safer area.

“Mostly, keep people away from them and they will be fine,” Kilham said.

Kilham’s rehabilitation center takes in young bears who have lost their mothers in the wild, and releases them after they reach 18-months of age. That is the age bears will leave their mother to strike out on their own. So far, he’s taken in 16 cubs this year.

Kilham wondered if it could have been possible to rehabilitate the bear, which had been spotted in Nashua for several days. Bears can be found in most communities throughout New Hampshire, Kilham said, and will come into urban areas foraging for food.

Bolton said police acted quickly to make sure everyone was safe. The bear was acting in a way that could have been a precursor to it taking violent action out of defense from the crowd, Bolton said.

“As a result, we had to make a very difficult decision,” he said.

Bolton said police are not looking to charge people in the crowd that was agitating the bear at this time.