LONGWOOD, Fla. - A dog was found alive after vanishing following an encounter with a bear in a Seminole County neighborhood earlier this week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) confirmed Thursday morning.
Officials said a man was walking the dog along Winding Pine Trail in Longwood Tuesday night when the attack happened. The man was taken to a hospital after suffering a large head wound. His condition was not immediately released.
In an update Thursday morning, a FWC spokesperson said they believe the man's injuries were "secondary to the interaction with the bear." According to an incident report, the man's injury appeared to be consistent with falling on the pavement, not from the bear's claws.
The incident remains under investigation.
FOX 35 News exclusively spoke with the neighbors who rushed to help the man and his dog during the bear encounter.
"I heard what sounded like a dog screaming," Jackie Coggin, who lives nearby, said. "I rolled my window down and could see in the dark a bear standing over the dog."
Coggin drove her car between the bear and the man being attacked, flashing her lights to scare the animal. She said it let the dog go, and more people came to help the man, injured on the ground.
What should you do if you encounter a bear?
The presence of black bears in Florida is not typically a problem or threat to your safety, but it's important to remember that they are wild animals and deserve respect.
Black bears are normally too shy to risk contact with humans, but their powerful need to find food can overwhelm their fear, officials said.
The FWC urges residents to be aware of their surroundings and walk dogs on a short leash.
If you see a bear, the FWC said to make sure you are in a safe area, make sure the bear has a clear escape route, and then scare the bear! This can be done by yelling, banging pots and pans, using an air horn, or anything else that makes a lot of noise.
If you feel threatened by a bear or notice a bear that is visibly sick, injured, dead, or orphaned, you're asked to call the FWC wildlife alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). You're also asked to contact wildlife officials if you see someone harming bears or intentionally feeding them.