Florida wildlife agents have captured four black bears in a residential area of Gulf Breeze, including one adult female believed to have injured a man and his dog when the man let the dog out in his front yard Saturday night.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will relocate three of the bears, but said in a news release the female bear responsible for the attack will be euthanized. The department said the other three are yearlings weighing about 100 pounds each.
“Putting down bears is a decision that is not taken lightly,” Bear Management Program coordinator Dave Telesco said in the news release. “We will continue to work with area residents to ensure that they have the information needed to properly secure attractants to keep themselves safe.”
The news release said the man had to have stitches after the bear swiped him. The dog was also injured but is expected to survive.
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Florida has documented a 28 percent increase in the western Panhandle’s bear population since 2002.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reports the black bear population is growing in this state, too, with the Coast a favorite habitat. Mississippi bears have more wilderness in which to roam, the department says. Residential development in Florida has led to more bear encounters, and that state’s conservation commission has adopted a “BearWise” education program for residents.
Richard Rummel, Mississippi’s bear program leader, said residents would be wise to secure garbage cans and keep pet food inside.
The Florida commission’s news release said: “The 100-pound yearlings were much heavier than typical yearling Florida bears living in the woods. Bears grow larger and produce more cubs when they have regular access to human-provided foods, which increases the number of bears living in neighborhoods and causing human-bear conflicts.”