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Lack of tranqulizer gun leaves officers with few options in early Friday morning encounter

Police say they were forced to shoot and kill a black bear that was wandering through Gresham neighborhoods early Friday morning.

First learning about the bear via reports from concerned community members on social media, the Gresham Police Department found the bear, estimated to be about 5 feet tall, around 2 a.m. Friday, May 25, near Kirk Park, 1087 N.E. 188th Ave. The park is near Hartley Elementary School, and the bear was next to several apartment complexes.

"The officers found the bear and made the decision to shoot it," said Ben Costigan, police information officer.

There are no reports that the bear hurt anyone or damaged property during its urban visit.

The decision to euthanize the bear was made because the department is not equipped with tranquilizer guns, and the Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife weren't able to respond fast enough to ensure the bear wouldn't harm any citizens.

That decision follows standard ODFW procedure.

"When a bear is seen in town multiple times that is not a good sign," Michelle Dennehy, ODFW wildlife communications coordinator. "It depends on the situation, but public safety is always the first priority."

The bear was first seen near Southeast 190th Avenue and Southeast Giese Drive. If the bear had remained on the fringes of town, where the danger to the public could be mitigated, then police could have waited, Costigan noted.

Dennehy said that when black bears wander into populated areas, it is usually in search of food. And in each subsequent visit they stop fearing humans and become bolder.

"This doesn't happen often, and if you want to help bears, keep your food sources secure and don't feed them," Dennehy said.

In Oregon, there are an estimated 30,000 black bears, which Dennehy said is a healthy population.

The bear's body was taken to the Gresham Police Department pending an examination by a wildlife biologist.

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