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Curiosity over bear in Grand Forks park contributed to its death, zoo official says

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A black bear wanders through a University of North Dakota campus-area neighborhood in Grand Forks on Monday, July 16. Photo by Eric Hylden / Forum News Service2 / 2

GRAND FORKS—A bear that attracted crowds of gawkers after it wandered into a park near the University of North Dakota and climbed up a tree Monday, July 16, was euthanized, Grand Forks police said Tuesday.

Police tranquilized the bear about 7 p.m. with help from wildlife specialists and a veterinarian from the Red River Zoo in Fargo before the animal was lowered to the ground.

"If it had not become the subject of people's curiosity, it might've survived yesterday," said Red River Zoo veterinarian Dr. Tom Colville, who assisted in sedating the bear.

Grand Forks Police tried to scare the bear away from town when it was reported near the city's industrial park about 4:30 a.m. Monday. Lt. Derik Zimmel said officers tried to scare the bear by making loud noises and flashing lights from their vehicles, but the bear headed opposite of the intended direction.

At 9 a.m., it climbed a tree near University Park and later walked toward a neighborhood before settling back in a tall tree in the park.

Police evacuated the area and asked the public to stay away, but Zimmel said large crowds gathered to watch the bear from the edges of the park.

Zimmel said the crowd limited police's options to remove the animal. They could shoot the bear and risk it surviving and attacking the crowd, close the park and post officers until the bear climbed down and left or to try to sedate and relocate it.

Zimmel said the third option was the safest.

After tranquilizing the bear, a rope was attached to its leg and a crane was used to lower the bear to the ground and move it out of the park.

A Facebook post from the Grand Forks Police Department said the animal was taken out of town for medical examination. Veterinarians concluded the bear wouldn't survive and it was humanely euthanized, the post said.

Colville said North Dakota Department of Game and Fish officials told him before he arrived in Grand Forks on Monday evening that the bear would have to be put down. The experts said it simply would have become a repeat problem.

"The fact that there's no real bear habitat in North Dakota. If they took it back to Minnesota, it would probably find its way to another inhabited area."

Colville said he hopes this situation will teach people to stay away from wild animals.

"If you see a wild animal in the wild, respect the animal and leave it alone," he said.

Forum News Service

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