A Seminole County Sheriff's Office employee – who was off-duty at the time – shot and killed a black bear last week outside his home in Sanford after the bear "charged" at him and his dog, according to the FWC's incident report. The bear was later euthanized due to the injuries sustained in the shooting.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released the incident report from the August 18 shooting on Thursday, following a publics records request. It provides the first account of the circumstances that led to the shooting of the bear.
The FWC concluded that the man shot the bear to protect his family and his dog. Therefore, no charges or violations were found. Because of that, FOX 35 has decided not to name the man involved.
According to the report, the man told FWC detectives that was sitting on his porch with his dog drinking coffee when his bear alarm when off and began flashing. He told detectives he had a pistol with him "due to recent crime in the area," specifically break-ins.
He got up and looked around the corner to see a bear within 8-10 feet of him, the report said. He yelled at the bear to try and scare it off, and his dog started barking, the report said.
The bear then charged toward him and his dog. "To protect himself and his dog, he fired his pistol at the bear and unloaded a magazine," the report said.
The bear appeared injured but was able to run away with its two cubs. The FWC said officers found the mama bear, but ultimately decided to humanely euthanize it due to its injuries.
Officials said it appeared that the bear had been struck at least three times, according to the report.
He told the FWC that he had been in contact with bear management staff about the bear and cubs in the neighborhood before, and that FWC provided him with a bear alert device, a sprinkler, and told him to make a nail board to deter the bears.
The FWC officer confirmed those details with bear management.
The man said he had also removed multiple bird feeders from the front porch. The FWC officer noted there was no trash or other attractants outside the home.
- Residents call for change after mama bear shot, killed in Florida neighborhood
- ‘Heartbreaking’: Neighbors react to shooting of Black bear
Are Black Bears protected in Florida?
Black bears are protected in Florida. The only time a black bear can be shot is if someone has secured a special hunting permit or to protect human life, a spokesperson told FOX 35.
Where are the bears now?
The FWC did confirm that the two bear cubs – who are now orphaned – are old enough to forage for food on their own and were seen eating.
Wednesday night, the FWC confirmed to FOX 35 that the two bear cubs were located and transported to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park for rehabilitation. They're then expected to be released back into the wild in December.
FOX 35 has reached out to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park – park of the Florida State Parks system – for additional details on how the bears are doing and what that rehabilitation will look like.
In wake of the shooting, social media posts have been circulating online alleging that an employee with the Winter Springs Police Department was involved in the shooting. However, in a pointed statement on Thursday, Winter Spring Police Chief Matthew Tracht denied those allegations.
"Let me be completely clear: At no time was our officer involved in this incident, and any statements on social media stating otherwise are false," he said, adding that the officer had now become "the target of harassment online, at his home by his neighbors and the media."
How many bears live in Florida?
Mike Orlando, who leads the bear management program for FWC, told FOX 35 that there are between 4,000 and 4,500 bears in Florida, according to the last count conducted in 2015. Though, it's believed the bear population is much higher.
The next bear count will be conducted in 2025.
He said bears can be found in many places in Central Florida and unless you have a video surveillance camera installed to alert you, you may not realize how often a bear wanders by your house.
Oftentimes, he said, the bears are in search of food. As long as they do not find it, they'll move on. But, attractants such as trash left outside, grease, cat or dog food, or cat litter, can entice a curious bear.
Most violent bear encounters, he said, may happen if a bear is protection their young or started or surprised by a human or another animal.