South Florida deputies said they were forced to shoot bear; Wildlife officials disagree

Palm Beach County deputies said they had no choice but to shoot a black bear roaming a residential neighborhood over the weekend after a trapper failed to show up, but state wildlife officials are disputing their account and rationale.

According to a PBSO news release, deputies responded to a call about a bear roaming a Royal Palm Beach neighborhood around 8 a.m. Saturday.

The woman who reported the bear said it was inside her covered back porch, a place where her children regularly play.

“The bear looked in her direction, which placed her in fear for her and her family’s life,” the news release said.

As deputies monitored the bear, the agency said it eventually climbed up a tree. PBSO said as the bear started to climb down, deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers began yelling and hitting nearby trees to scare it into climbing back up the tree.

That worked, deputies said, but the bear’s second attempt at climbing down from the tree would turn out to be its last.

Deputies said after waiting “several hours” for a trapper, the bear climbing down the tree posed an imminent safety threat.

“It should be noted that the bear had NO place to roam safely!” the news release said. “The incident location and surrounding area are residential neighborhoods and fearing the bear would roam into the residential communities and/or impede traffic flow on the adjacent roadways PBSO was faced with making the decision to discharge their shotguns striking and killing the bear.”

But FWC officials are calling that account into question.

West Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF spoke with FWC officials, who said they had determined it was best to let the bear leave the area on its own and that there was no trapper involved at all.

“According to FWC policy, bears that do not pose an immediate threat to people are allowed the opportunity to move off on their own,” an agency spokesperson said in an email to WPBF. “Typically these animals find more suitable habitat without intervention. In cases where suitable habitat may be difficult to reach, FWC policy also allows for a trapping effort to be attempted. In this instance we were not waiting for a trapper since FWC staff determined the best approach was to let the bear leave the area on its own.”

The same bear had been believed to have been sighted and photographed several times in one week in both the Jupiter Farms and Royal Palm Beach areas, WPBF reports.

It is illegal to kill a black bear in Florida without an FWC permit unless it poses a threat to human life, according to the agency’s website.

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