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DEC Officials Say Bear Shootings 'Rare'; Stony Point Shooter Not Issued Violations

Law enforcement, civilians can shoot bears, other wildlife if a threat is perceived

Department of Conservation officials in Rockland and beyond are calling the "very rare," but not unheard of.

A family barbecue at 567 Willow Grove Rd. was disrupted Saturday when a bear entered the property of host Richard Wheeler. Wheeler attempted to shoo the animal away, eventually   "[taking] matters into his own hands," according to police, who arrived at the scene shortly afterward.

Police said Wheeler shot the bear with a rifle, killing it. A DEC representative also arrived at the scene afterward; Wheeler declined comment.

Monday morning, DEC officials told Patch that while bear encounters in Rockland and Orange Counties—and even Westchester County—are common, residents rarely opt to address the situation themselves.

"It doesn't happen that often," explained Wendy Rosenbach, a spokeswoman for the DEC's Region Three, which includes Rockland. She noted Wheeler was not issued any violations, and that the event was a "public safety issue"—especially because children were present.

Rosenbach said when shootings do happen, it is generally farmers who pull the trigger.

"If a bear is getting into honey, or going after livestock, farmers can take down the bear without any permit," she explained.

And if law enforcement officers or homeowners encounter any sort of animal that appears threatening, they too can dispatch it, Rosenbach said.

Most recently, a similar incident occurred in Ulster County. A bear was charging people due to a perception of her cubs being in danger; police shot and killed the bear, and DEC officials deemed the action appropriate.

Rosenbach said residents must inform the DEC after incidents like this.

"We do need to know, even if the bear was hit by a car," she said. "We do need to investigate, but in most cases we understand."

(For video of a bear in residential South Nyack being tranquilized after climbing up a tree, click .)

But the ideal situation, Rosenbach said, is not attracting bears in the first place. 

"We want to reduce attracting bears to property," she said. To do so, residents should bring their bird feeders indoors at the start of spring until winter, and not leave trash outside unless pick-up is the following morning.

"[Bears] will get into garbage, they are opportunistic feeders," Rosenbach said.

(For more bear prevention tips, or guidelines in the event of a sighting, click .)

Andromachos July 03, 2012 at 11:20 AM
It is apparently frowned upon in this county if you are self sufficient and do not have an infantile reliance on government. I, too would prefer the bear to have been shooed off or tranquilized and brought (where? the Catskills?), but as long as these encounters remain rare and there is no evidence that Mr. Wheeler endangered anyone at his household, regardless of the wild imaginations of some of the commenters, what is there to really criticize.
JC Brotherhood July 03, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Its like shooting a big Newfoundland. The open garbage cans tell the story about why the bear is there in the first place. @ John Taggart: Hiding in the grass waiting to pounce on your kids? Please are you a behavioral scientist? Do you know anything about ursine foraging habits? He shot the bear because he wanted too. End of story.
Rick Tannenbaum July 03, 2012 at 01:45 PM
What the string of comments show (on this Patch and the Nanuet Patch) is that the typical "us" vs. "them" mentality in Rockland persists (and thrives). That is, there is a perception that the newcomers are soft and know nothing about nature and wildlife, when it is more likely that Rockland's old guard is misinformed, overly aggressive, and intolerant of anyone that disagrees with their "way" of thinking. JC Brotherhood is right -- he shot the bear because he wanted to. And the Stony Point police looked the other way because they wanted to. And the DEC should not have given Mr. Wheeler the bear as a trophy. It only encourages others to shoot first and hope the police and DEC look the other way. Bears are not pests or nuisances, they are part of our ecosystem.
Clarkstown life July 03, 2012 at 02:10 PM
You two (Rick and jc) deserve each other......this is much ado about nothing
Patrick July 20, 2012 at 10:14 PM
It should be decided in a court.

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