FWC stands by decision to kill 7 bears, warns against feeding them

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LAKE MARY, Fla. —

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said Wednesday officers have killed seven bears near the Lake Mary neighborhood where a woman was mauled Saturday night.

Wildlife officers said they are standing by their position on killing the seven bears, all of which were killed after Terri Frana was attacked at her home in the gated community.

Frana has been recovering at home since the attack.

Channel 9 has been receiving emails and phone calls from people furious about wildlife officials' plan to capture and kill so many bears.

But FWC officer Greg Workman said, "We are having to do and take action against these bears for specific reasons, and public safety is No. 1. Why can't we just relocate them? That's not an option for these bears."

"Unfortunately, there is nowhere in Florida we can take them where we are confident that they won't come into contact with people," said FWC Bear Program coordinator Dave Telesco.

Telesco said there are several ways to reduce the chances of human-bear conflict. He said people should secure garbage until the morning of pickup and not allow pet food, bird seed or other food items to be left out overnight.

He said that most importantly, residents should never intentionally feed bears, because it is both dangerous and illegal.

"Once adult bears become dependent on human-provided food, there is nothing we can do to (make them) unlearn that behavior," said Telesco. "By feeding bears, people are not helping them. They may be signing their death sentence."

Officials stressed they are only killing the bears that are too comfortable with humans and dependent on their food.

Frana's neighbor, Tami Compton, said the bear problem is out of control.

Compton said there are visible claw marks on her daughter's playground equipment, and she worries the bears are getting too comfortable in the neighborhood, saying she sees them at least once a week.

"I thought there would be a time when the bears would be aggressive and I think it's gotten to that point.  They are just too comfortable here," she said.

Since 2009, a total of 9 bears in Seminole County were killed and eight relocated, not counting the seven killed this week.

FWC officials believe the problem is more serious now, and it's an issue Compton said she warned them about back in August.

"That's the problem," she said. "We wait that long before we do anything and then they wonder why we have to do this."

Compton said she was told officials couldn't do anything last year because the bears weren't aggressive.