Bear attack at home brings wake-up call to Bay area

Pinellas County, Florida --- Lake Mary resident Frank Frana said it was a close call.

"Ten stitches and several lacerations all over her body. Claw marks on the back."

This after his wife Terri was dragged from her garage on Saturday by one of five bears seen in a residential Lake Mary neighborhood.

"The bear actually had my wife's head in its mouth and started to drag her into the woods," he said.

It might not be common, but we've had our share of blundering bears in the Bay area too.

Fidelia Pittman remembers when a black bear climbed her neighbor's last may in Egypt Lake-Leto.

"It took about six men to pull him once they tranquilized him twice," she said.

Over at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Pinellas County, where founder and director Vernon Yates keeps four black bears, he recommends giving bears "the widest birth as you can" because these amazingly powerful creatures are food-driven. In fact, Yates said any bear attack comes down to two things: food or protecting their cubs.

"Their attitudes change by just a flick of the finger. It will fight for its food," he said.

On Sunday evening, a FWC officer reportedly shot another bear that exhibited dangerous behavior toward officers and staff investigating the earlier attack. That bear allegedly approached FWC biologists and showed no fear of humans. An officer yelled at the bear, but it didn't retreat.

FWC said other bears in the area also seemed highly habituated to people. Three that showed no fear of humans were captured and put down.

FWC has positioned several traps in the area and we are reaching out to residents of this neighborhood to discuss actions they can take to avoid encounters with bears.

"Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food," said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC's bear management program. "If they can't find food in your neighborhood, they'll move on."

Frana's harrowing experience is bringing one heck of a post-hibernation wake-up call to the Bay area, and you can help keep the bears at bay.

In a press release, the Florida Wildlife Commission asks for your help.

The FWC reminds residents in this area to be aware of their surroundings and always supervise pets and children while outdoors. The FWC relies on residents to report threatening bear behavior. Residents should contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) to report any threatening bear activity.


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