On Monday, Dec. 2, 54-year-old Susan Chalfant went out to walk her dogs just like any other night, when something horrifying happened. According to her her family, the dogs started getting agitated and Susan didn't see the 200-pound black bear until it knocked her over. Susan sustained injuries to her face and head in what officials from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission call the worst documented bear attack in Florida history.
Florida Bear Management
Susan's home in the gated subdivision Wingfield North, located in central Florida near Wekiwa Springs State Park, is a popular area for bear sightings. In an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) has pointed out that it's time for wildlife officials to reassess bear-management strategies.
"It's not a case of humans encroaching on bears anymore," he said. "It's now a case of bears encroaching on humans," said Simmons.
In the same article, Florida FWC executive director Nick Wiley explains that in the wake of the attack:
"We are very aggressive, honestly, in euthanizing a bear. If it's lost its fear of people, not showing avoidance behavior, we're going to have to take it. We don't like doing that, but human safety comes first. People come first."
While this story is extremely alarming, the ratio of violent attacks to bear encounters in Florida is relatively low. According to the FWC, out of all bear encounters from 1980 to 2012, only 1 percent involved a bear threatening a human.
Bear Encounter Safety
While coming in close contact with a bear can be very daunting, there are things that could help you avoid an attack. Be sure to remain standing upright, speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice. Furthermore, avoid direct eye contact, and back up slowly to a secure area unless is agitates the bear, then hold your ground.
Here are some things you should never do when encountering a bear:
- Make any sudden movements
- Run (This could trigger a chase and bears can run up to 35 mph)
- Play dead
- Climb a tree
Big Game Bear Hunts
As seen in this year's Boone and Crockett Club's 28th Big Game Awards, bear hunting is popular among American sportsmen. Big game hunting is an experience that most hunters strive for at some point in their lives and it plays a crucial role in bear management in Florida and across the United States. The FWC has created an entire Florida Black Bear Management Program to delineate these efforts.
Craig Boddington, host of The Boddington Experience on the Sportsman Channel, has bagged many monstrous bears in his day. Here are just a few:
The 10-Foot Brown Bear Revisited
Guide Alisha Decker (left) and Donna Boddington with the hide of Donna's exceptional Alaskan brown bear, laid out properly for a "squared" measurement. This particular bear measured out at 9 feet, 11 and 3/4 inches.
A 7-Foot Brown Bear
While this seven-foot kill is categorized as OK by Boddington, it goes to show that eight-foot and bigger bears aren't uncommon.
A Siberian 9-Footer
Craig Boddington poses with his guide and his kill, a nine-foot brown bear, in Siberia. Siberian bears tend to be less shy toward humans than their Eurasian counterparts and are known for destroying hunters' shed and huts where food is stored. Tours in Eastern Siberia are available in the Spring and Fall.
A 10-Foot Alaskan Brown Bear
Guide Alisha Decker and Donna Boddington pose with their massive Alaskan brown bear.
Boddington With His 11-Foot Kill
Boddington poses with his 11-foot, 29-year-old Alaskan bruin killed in 1981.
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