LONGWOOD, Fla. - Channel 9 Eyewitness News has uncovered evidence that bears in the Longwood neighborhood where a woman was mauled last month may have been illegally fed by the woman's neighbor.
Channel 9's Karla Ray obtained a
complaint made to the Florida Wildlife Commission in March of last year.
The address listed was off English Ivy Court, just yards from where 54-year-old Susan Chalfant was attacked.
Wildlife officials said one of the first rules of living in a neighborhood where bears are known to roam is take in your
trash so they don't expect a free meal.
But someone who lives on English Ivy Court, now known for the worst bear attack in Florida history, reported that a neighbor was feeding foxes and bears from trays in their backyard.
"That's when accidents happen," said Christin Burford, of the Care Sanctuary in Apopka.
Burford said the bear that officials said attacked
Chalfant was likely surprised into an attack.
She said if someone was feeding the bear it could lose its fear of people.
"The bear would be attracted to that area if it's used to getting
food and it wouldn't have a fear of people if it sees people with the food," said Burford.
Burford said once bears find a food source, they'll keep coming back to take advantage of it.
She said if that immediate food source goes away bears will search open garages or break into porches to find something to eat.
"They will, they absolutely will and the thing is, they're not simple animals, they'll find a way," said Burford.
According to the report filed in March a law enforcement officer did come out to the neighborhood.
Ray asked if wildlife agents did any follow-ups, or if anyone was cited for feeding
bears; she has not yet received a response.