The Newmarket black bear shooting has sparked debate about the ability of the Ministry of Natural Resources to handle situations involving the wild animals.

New figures obtained by the Star reveal bears in Ontario are much more likely to be shot than tranquilized when an on-the-ground response from government ministry experts is required, such as the Newmarket black bear shooting incident on Monday. The incident provoked fury from local residents and social media across Canada.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the government department responsible for tranquilizing wild animals in public areas, received 4,293 calls about bear sightings in Ontario last year. Only 3 per cent required an on-the-ground response. However 70 per cent of incidents resulted in the bear being shot rather than tranquilized.

Procedure under the province’s Bear Wise program dictates the police are the first responders to reports of a bear in a public area, despite having no wild animal or tranquilizer gun training. Officers call for MNR bear experts’ support only once the animal is confined and not endangering the public.

The MNR took close to three hours to respond once York Regional Police called to say the Newmarket black bear was stationary, despite being aware of the presence of a bear in the area up to 48 hours previously.

Local residents were divided on whether the police were right to shoot the bear for public safety concerns, but were united in questioning why the MNR took so long to respond.

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