A black bear that was wandering around Ottawa’s ByWard Market in the early hours of Thursday morning has been tranquilized, captured and released back into the wild by federal conservation officers.
Ottawa Police Insp. Glenn Wasson told reporters that officers contained the young, male bear in an alleyway connecting Murray and St. Patrick streets – between Parent Avenue and Dalhousie Street – where the animal then climbed up a tree and perched 30 to 35 feet up.
Police shut down a block of the downtown area for more than five hours as conservation officers from the National Capital Commission (NCC) came in and devised a plan to move the bear safely.
The officers positioned nets under the tree to catch the furry beast before tranquilizing him with a dart. The bear, however, didn’t fall out of the tree as expected.
“It took probably five to eight minutes before the bear settled down, but it settled down on a branch in the tree, with its arms around the tree, and fell asleep,” Wasson said.
When it became clear the bear wasn’t coming down, police asked the fire department to bring them a ladder and the conservation authorities tranquilized the animal a second time.
Wasson said the NCC officers then secured the bear with rope around its paws and legs, nudged him off the branch, lowered him to the ground and caught him in a net.
Shortly after 9 a.m., a group of eight to 10 officers were seen carrying the bear into a cage waiting on Murray Street.
There appeared to be a small struggle as police and conservation officers guided the animal towards the back of the cage. Wasson said the movement seemed to have woken the bear “very briefly” and he stirred, which caused the officers to react.
Wasson said conservation officers estimate the bear is roughly 18 months to two years old. He said no one is certain where the animal came from but the NCC officers speculated the bear could have come across the Ottawa River from Gatineau Park or could’ve come from elsewhere in the National Capital Region.
Conservation officers drove off with the cage around 9:30 a.m. – but not before letting media and onlookers get a glimpse (and plenty of pictures) of the drowsy animal.
The NCC tweeted on Thursday afternoon that the 70-kilogram (roughly 155-pound) bear was in “excellent shape” upon his release. He was tagged and set free in a forest in the Lanark area, the federal agency said.
Ottawa police first received reports about a bear on the loose in the ByWard Market at 3:22 a.m. Wasson said there was no concern for public safety but that police officers were equipped with carbine rifles “in the event that something did go wrong.”
Wasson said the bear “did not display any aggression” throughout the ordeal, which drew the attention of a number of residents and individuals working in the area.
“I suspect it was agitated to some extent but it did not display any aggression whatsoever,” he said.
“It just watched us do our thing and otherwise seemed reasonably content under the circumstances.”