A young black bear in a tree in Newton near the Massachusetts Turnpike was shot and killed by state environmental police this morning, after attempts to tranquilize it were unsuccessful, according to authorities.
At 7:27 a.m., State Police stopped traffic on the Turnpike for about two minutes as the bear was “neutralized,” State Police said.
State Police troopers and three Massachusetts Environmental Police officers had initially responded about an hour earlier to a report of a bear on railroad tracks in Newton. The Newton Police Department and the Newton Fire Department also responded to the area around Washington Street and the Mass Pike.
“We’ve never seen a bear running up and down Washington Street before,” said Todd Houston, who lives on the corner of Parsons and Washington Streets, and was watching television when he saw the bear on the railroad tracks.
“The bear was taking his time, I saw it climb up the tree about midway, then when the police showed up, it went up higher,” he said.
Lieutenant Eric Fricke, a spokesman for the Newton Fire Department, said the bear was in a tree when the fire department arrived at the scene. An officer with the environmental police climbed up a fire department ladder to get a better look at the animal.
After more information was obtained about the bear, Fricke said, the environmental officer “ended up going up the ladder and shooting the bear from the top of our ladder.”
Mary-Leah Assad, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Environmental Police, said in a statement that officers were unsuccessful in their efforts to “immobilize” the bear with tranquilizers. She said the bear was high up in the tree in very thick foliage and the tranquilizer guns used by officers have a limited range.
“The decision was made by the MEP senior officer on scene to euthanize the bear because of the proximity to the MBTA lines, Mass Pike and the urban environment and population,” Assad said.
A photograph posted on Twitter showed the dead bear bundled in greenish netting by the tracks.
The environmental police determined the bear to be a male about 1 year old that weighed between 100 and 125 pounds, according to Assad. The bear had been tagged by the state Department of Fish and Game in February, she said.
State Police spokesman, Lieutenant Daniel G. Richard, said the environmental police removed the animal from the scene at about 7:50 a.m.
Tom O’Shea, assistant director of wildlife for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said “there is a broader trend” of black bears, in particular young males, moving east in Massachusetts.
“We’ve seen that the population has increased over time and with that, we have an expanding population moving eastward,” he said
O’Shea explained males stay with their mother and their siblings for about two years and then start to move on, typically at this time of year.
Bears that end up in suburban areas often are unseen, and cause few problems, he said,especially when there are nearby woods for them to retreat to.
“In this particular situation,” he said, “the bear didn’t have any easy escape route.”
Other communities have dealt with a bear or bears in residential areas in recent weeks.
Brian Hourihan, a dispatcher with the Weston Police Department, said there had been a number of bear sightings reported by Weston residents over the past week and a half, but, each time, by the time police arrived, the bear was gone.
Sergeant Tom Galvin of the Wayland Police Department, said his department had some reports of bear sightings about a week and a half ago.
“We did have a bear in town, but that was way back on May 21,” Galvin said. He said, generally speaking, there appeared to more bear sightings recently.
“It just seems like there are more coming this way,” he firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.