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Group offers $10,000 reward in fatal bear shooting in Washington

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 8:27 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 12:05 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A Facebook group is offering a $10,000 reward in a shooting last month in Washington that killed a bear.

The group Help Asheville Bears, or HAB, if offering the reward for the person or persons who shot and killed the bear that climbed up a tree June 25th near Van Norden Street and Fort Drive.

The bear was seen sleeping in the yard earlier in the day.

North Carolina Wildlife and Washington police were on the scene keeping an eye on the animal. When the male bear, which weighed 403 pounds, climbed up a tree around 1:45, they left and would occasionally drive by to check on it.

Wildlife Officer Ryan Biggerstaff says they got a call just after 5:00 p.m. that shots had been fired. When they arrived they found the bear dead.

Law enforcement recovered six 9 millimeter bullet casings at the scene.

Officer Biggerstaff says no one is saying what happened.

HAB says, “It takes an evil person to do this. Those responsible for this cruelty will become the hunted, as HAB and our followers want to expose who they are and stop them from such cruelty again!!”

The $10,000 reward is in addition to the $1,000 reward offered by North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Those with information can message HAB on their facebook page or call at 855-767-2237.

You can also call NCWRC at 252-904-2990 with information.

Black bears get spotted every so often in Washington, but it isn’t every day they show up for a nap in a neighborhood yard.

Washington resident William Opharrow says a crowd showed up to his backyard Thursday to witness the 403-pound black bear who decided to hang out for a while.

"Yogi, Smokey, he had all sorts of names."

Eventually, the crowds died down, but the bear had been spooked and climbed up a tree.

"When everybody left, when everyone disappeared, someone got bored."

In that tree, hours later, someone shot and killed the bear.

Ryan Biggerstaff works with NC Wildlife, who was monitoring the situation while the bear was on the ground. He says the best thing to do would be to leave the bear alone.

“The bear would have come out of the tree once everything got quiet and calmed down… left city limits and probably would never have been seen again,” said Biggerstaff. “An unlawful take of a black bear, just a truly beautiful animal, is just unnecessary.”

Other neighborhood residents believe officials should have continued to keep watch on the bear once it was in the tree and kept the crowds away.

“They crowd him up, where’s he going? He ain’t got nowhere to go but up,” said Opharrow’s neighbor Cletus Barner. If someone would have stayed here, that bear would still be living, today.”

Neighbors hope next time this rare sight occurs, both residents and wildlife can stay safe.

“Something that we never see that often, but something we should have handled better.”

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