A bear that gained a considerable following as it wandered through Amherst in the past two weeks was shot to death Monday night by an officer, Amherst Police said Tuesday.
Officers had kept close tabs on the bear and had hoped it eventually would leave town as it continued on its way. But the animal was seen dragging one of its legs, an injury suffered after it was struck by a vehicle, and that likely limited the animal's normal travels, said Capt. James McNamara.
Once officers found it in another populated area Monday, they made the decision to take down the bear, McNamara said.
"Officers at that time believed that there was a danger to the public," he said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon outside Amherst Police Headquarters.
This brings to an end several weeks of bear sightings that captivated the public here. The Amherst bear is likely the same bear that wandered through the Northtowns, including Clarence and North Tonawanda, since June, although it's not known for sure.
Officials had warned residents to give the bear a wide berth and to avoid leaving out sources of food for the animal.
In Amherst, police had observed the bear, fielded reports of its whereabouts from town residents and used social media to warn people of its presence.
McNamara said police maintained close contact with the state Department of Environmental Conservation as they tracked the bear. Police had hoped the bear would leave of its own volition without hurting people, pets or property.
In late June, however, a driver on the Lockport Expressway reported hitting the bear. He told police the bear had walked away from the collision, but it appeared injured.
Then, over the weekend, a Foxberry Drive resident said the bear had been in his Getzville backyard. Police searched for the animal in the surrounding woods, but no new sighting came until Monday night.
McNamara said the bear was seen on a front lawn near Renaissance Drive and Covent Garden Lane, in East Amherst, around 8:30 p.m. Officers spotted the bear traveling in and out of yards in the well-populated neighborhood.
The bear was walking on three legs and dragging its other leg, McNamara said.
Police had been in contact with the DEC, and had been working to arrange to trap and tranquilize the animal. But those arrangements were not complete by Monday evening and it wasn't clear that would be possible, McNamara said.
The officers at the scene made the determination, once it was safe to do so, to "euthanize" the bear because its injury meant it was having trouble moving to a less-populated area, McNamara said. They did not seek the go-ahead from the DEC for that decision.
An officer killed the bear with one shot fired from a patrol rifle around 9 p.m., McNamara said. He said he didn't know how close the officer was to the bear when the fatal shot was fired.
Police called a company that picks up roadkill and other dead animals for the town to retrieve the bear's carcass. Police asked DEC representatives if they wanted the carcass for testing, but the agency said that wasn't necessary.