UNION BEACH — Police said they killed a bear early Sunday morning, hours after issuing a warning about one being spotted.

Black bear in a dumpster (NJ DEP)

A warning was posted on the Union Beach Police Facebook page at 10:15 p.m. Saturday night about a "large bear" spotted by an officer on Edmunds Avenue. A call to residents made by police said the bear weighed 400 pounds and was in a tree, according to the Asbury Park Press.

In the comments section of the post at 1:40 a.m. police posted an update that the bear had been killed in a decision "not made lightly."

"It is with sincere regret that we announce the animal had to be put down. Subsequent to assessing the situation with several variables involved, the decision was made to prevent an even more grave situation from occurring," the post read.

In a later post, police explained that the bear was found in tree on Edmunds Avenue and State Fish & Wildlife refused to assist and said it was "outside of our protocol" but did offer suggestions on how to deal with the bear such as turning off the lights.

Police said after four hours the bear came down from the tree and headed towards Florence Ave, a man road described as "very populated with residents and heavy weekend traffic."

"This decision was NOT made lightly. However, the safety of residents and their families must always take top priority," police wrote.

DEP spokesman Bob Considine told New Jersey 101.5 in a statement that the division of Fish & Game did advise Union Beach Police "to allow a black bear that had been in a residential area to find its way out on its own, to disperse any crowds, to message to residents to remove bird feeders, bring in garbage cans and keep doors closed through a reverse 911 and to euthanize only if they feel someone is in imminent danger, as is the right of any local police department."

The instructions are similar to those given to law enforcement by Fish & Wildlife biologists in training sessions and given to municipal police departments when they report bear sightings.

"In a large majority of cases, black bears do find their way out on their own and extract themselves from residential areas and back into the wild. Case in point, the bear that was euthanized last night, we believe was last tagged in Stillwater Township in Sussex County two years ago. Bears do travel extensively and often they move at night, particularly during this time of year," Considine said.

Considine said that Fish & Wildlife biologists do not tranquilize bears using chemical mobilization at night over safety concerns for both residents and their staff.

Middletown Police spokesman Lt. Paul Bailey nor Considine did not know if the bear was the same one seen in the Township the past two days on Melissa Drive and Packard Drive.

"Black bears have been sighted in all 21 counties," Considine said, but are not common in Monmouth County.

Reaction to the incident was varied at first.

"I get it and respect your decision. I am aure it had to be done UBPD," Traci Sheen-Mcnamara commented on the police post. "I cannot imagine how you can justify this, but I'm willing to have an open mind. A treed bear was a threat," Christine Braile wrote.

After the second post, comment were more supportive of the police and blamed DEP for not responding.

"Great job and good call. I support the UB police and there decision.. Thank you for keeping us safe," Rob Rockafellow wrote. "The state authorities need to look into the lack of response from their agency. The answer outside the scope does not fly. The UBPD made a difficult decision and the residents of this town are safe however they should not have been put in this position. Thank you UBPD," Stephen Keller wrote.

Union Beach Police have not yet returned a message seeking additional comment.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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