W. Milford man shoots bear trying to enter house
June 7, 2003
By RICHARD COWEN, North Jersey Media Group
Kristine Flynn sees black bears in her West Milford back yard every day, but what happened Thursday night made her husband, Patrick, grab his shotgun and use it.
A black bear estimated at 400 pounds tried to break through the kitchen screen door. So Patrick Flynn pumped one shot into the animal, sending it limping into the woods. On Friday, state conservation officers found the bleeding bear not far away and killed it.
"We're not real big supporters of the bear hunt, but I feel what we did was totally justified," Kristine Flynn, 33, said Friday. "That bear was growling and very aggressive and could have come through the screen door at any moment. The bear would have had no problem breaking down the door and killing us."
That prospect of danger, state officials said Friday, was enough to justify shooting the otherwise legally protected animal.
Bears have come to the Flynns' log cabin on Kushaqua Trail North before - and probably will again. The couple bought the converted summer cottage six months ago, and it seems to be a bear pathway between Greenwood Lake and nearby cliffs.
Kristine Flynn says she sees bears "sometimes two or three times a day" in the yard. The Flynns, who have a 2-year-old girl, are experienced in bear deterrence. Kristine keeps the garbage in bearproof cans and even sprays the trash with ammonia.
That hasn't stopped bears from wandering into the yard and onto the porch, but Thursday was the first time a bear boldly tested the screen door, she said.
The incident started around 5:30 p.m., when a smaller female bear came to the back porch. Kristine Flynn was cooking pork chops and, experienced in bear deterrence, shooed her away by making noise.
She then dialed 911, but the West Milford police later said they were handling a domestic violence complaint and could not respond immediately. Kristine called the police a second time. Officers arrived around 7:30 p.m.
By that time, the female bear was long gone. Kristine said officers assured her that they would keep their eyes open and left.
But it wasn't over. About 15 minutes later, the male bear, growling and drooling, trundled across the porch and was headed straight for the kitchen's screen door. Authorities believe that he may have smelled not just the food but the scent of the female. June is mating season for bears, according to state wildlife staff.
Kristine slammed shut the wooden Dutch door behind the screen door, and the bear retreated to the yard, but would not leave. That's when her husband decided to get the shotgun.
"I have a 2-year-old child to protect," she said. "I never want to hear someone say, "Sorry Mrs. Flynn, but bears don't normally eat people.'"
Patrick Flynn, at 29 an experienced hunter, fired once at the bear, hitting him in the hindquarters. The bear then fled into the woods. Patrick then called West Milford police again, and they arrived minutes later.
On Friday morning, state wildlife officials found the bear about 400 yards from the Flynns' home suffering from gunshot wounds to a rear leg and the abdomen. They killed the animal.
The bear was removed from the woods and taken to the state Conservation Office in Clinton for an autopsy.
State and local officials believe Flynn acted properly to protect his family.
"At this point, we don't expect to prosecute the homeowner because he wasn't doing anything improper," said Jack Kaskey, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. "The bear did indeed seem to be acting aggressively."
By law, New Jersey residents have the right to kill any bear that comes within 10 feet of a human and fails to retreat when loud noises are made. In such instances, Kaskey advises the public to "shoot to kill."
"You don't want a wounded animal," Kaskey said. "That's very dangerous, and it causes suffering."
Kaskey said that in 2002 four bears were killed by homeowners.
"Some [shooters] were prosecuted, some were not," Kaskey said.
The maximum fine for unlawfully shooting a bear in New Jersey is $300.
This latest incident comes two weeks after the state's first serious injury of a human by a black bear. On May 23, a West Milford man was mauled by a black bear in his back yard while trying to save his dog. Authorities believed the bear was attracted to the scent of some dirty diapers left outside in the garbage.
As a result of increasing instances of bear contact with humans, the state is considering a bear hunt in December. New Jersey has an estimated population of 3,200 bears, most living in the Highlands.
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