Jesus told Terri Frana it would be all right. That's what the 44-year-old Lake Mary woman told reporters about Saturday night, when she was attacked by a black bear inside her garage.
"[The bear] started pulling me toward the woods," she told WESH-Channel 2. "I just thought, 'God, please, this can't be the end. It can't end like this.' I literally heard Jesus say to me, 'It's OK, you will be at peace with us.'"
But since the mauling, there's been no sign of peace. Instead, seven bears have been either shot or put down inside the subdivision of Carisbrook in Seminole County. This marks yet another human-bear standoff in Lake Mary's sylvan suburbia, where gated communities of McMansions abut serious patches of woods.
The Florida Wildlife Commission is not sure which -- if any -- of the bears attacked Frana. Officials say they were forced to take down the creatures because all of them were highly habituated.
"We were sitting there on the scene and yelling and screaming and the bears were going right for a trash can or a garage or us," Greg Workman of the FWC told Pulp. "We had to react."
One bear was shot Sunday. Six more were caught and euthanized between the weekend and this morning. Workman tells us they've seen at least a dozen bears so far and only put down the ones they had to.
He's also grateful this hasn't happened before. The bears of Carisbrook were charging at the workers, he says, and presented a huge threat to public safety. Workers will be triple-checking the neighborhood, but don't think there are any more unruly bears left to subdue.
In December of 2013, another woman, Susan Chalfant, was mauled in a nearby subdivision, Wingfield North. The State of Florida responded with the same abundance of caution, killing two bears without knowing which one attacked the 54-year-old. Later, through DNA testing, biologists concluded the answer was neither.
After public outcry took to social media, wildlife officials semi-apologized to the Orlando Sentinel for acting so quickly. "There are things we could've done better, but we were reacting to a tragic situation," said Thomas Eason, FWC's director of its Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. "We are dedicated to being better."
Florida should probably come up with a better postattack strategy than going Rambo on habituated bears -- this might not even be the last attack you hear of this year. The ursine creatures haven't been considered a threatened species in this state since August 2012.
And if they do, they better focus on Central Florida, where the effects of shrinking wildlife habitats combined with a robust bear population are felt most acutely. According to the state's Bear Management Plan (yes, we have one), 1,239 out of 2,425 complaints to the FWC's Bear Management Unit (yes, one of those too) in 2010 were made in that area.
Statewide, complaints have increased 106 percent between 2006 and 2010. The Bear Management Plan notes that increasing human-bear conflicts are a "concern."
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