110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Wildlife Commission cautions residents about leaving out pet food
By Pat Andrews
posted Jul 25, 2012 - 7:17:15pm
A black bear killed a dog that tried to defend her yard at a home on the north side of DeLand July 21.
Her owner and neighbors want to know if anyone will do anything about the bear, which has been making appearances for the past few weeks on Oak Street, just east of Marsh Road and just north of East International Speedway Boulevard.
The answer is "Yes," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokeswoman Joy Hill said. A trap will be set for the bear, and the bear, when caught, will be relocated to the Ocala National Forest.
Greg Mapp, the dog's owner, said he is heartbroken over losing Molly, a 14-year-old, 120-pound Dalmatian-Rottweiler mix.
He was sitting in his carport at the front of the house around 11 p.m. Saturday, when he heard a commotion in the backyard. He got around back in time to see Molly going "toe-to-toe" with a huge black bear that had come over the back fence.
It was a large bear, probably a male, said Mapp, who has seen a number of bears in his 22 years as a land surveyor.
"My best guess is around 350 pounds," he said. "My dog looked like a hamster next to this bear."
Mapp praised Molly's valor. She was "shredded" by the bear, he said, trying to defend her home and him, too.
"She died like a soldier," he said.
The bear ran off, and Mapp pulled Molly into the laundry room, and tried to tend to her injuries. FWC bear-management specialist Mike Orlando came to the house the next morning.
Orlando noted the dog had puncture marks in her neck and was severely injured, and he helped Mapp load the dog in the car. Mapp took the dog to a veterinarian's office, where Molly was put to sleep.
The bear has been visiting Mapp's house and two houses next to it. The properties back up to a wooded lot, and a hammock of wild trees and vines runs from the woods between Mapp's house and that of his next-door neighbors, Tom and Dreena Hoffmann. They believe the bear is making a home in the tangle of trees and vines on the wooded lot.
After killing the dog Saturday night, July 21, the bear returned around 5 p.m. Sunday.
Dreena Hoffmann said she was surprised to see it in the daylight.
Mapp said his wife, Carolyn Latchaw, is now terrified of going outside.
The Hoffmanns have two dogs.
"You just get a little uneasy taking them out at night," Dreena Hoffmann said.
Tom Hoffmann said they've lived in the house more than 15 years, and never had a problem like this.
FWC spokeswoman Hill said it's not uncommon for bear troubles to come on suddenly, after years of peace.
Hill, a pet lover, said she hates to hear about pets getting injured or killed.
"The dog was doing its job; unfortunately, it lost," she said.
The FWC has been getting calls in the area, mostly complaints about bears getting into garbage and pet food.
Molly was an outside dog, and Mapp kept dishes of food for her in the backyard. That may have been what attracted the bear, Hill said. They don't normally target dogs for attack.
"It's bear country," she said of the area, and there's more than one bear around. So, even with moving this bear, residents still need to take precautions to avoid attracting them.
• Keep garbage in an enclosure, if possible. Put it by the curb as late as possible on trash night, or early the morning of pickup.
• Don't leave dog or cat food outside.
• Take in bird feeders at night — bears enjoy birdseed.
• Keep an air horn, and use the noise to drive bears away
• Motion-detector scare devices can scare away bears with noise or a blast of water.
Bears are opportunists who like human food. They succumb to the temptation of trash-can snacks as well as to pet food left on the porch or in the yard.
The FWC tested bear-proof trash toters in the Glenwood area early last year. Hill said a follow-up survey showed residents who got them found they are effective, but most residents said they weren't willing to pay a little extra for the special toters. Whether further distribution of them will be made is up in the air.
FWC is setting traps for two more bears — one in Pierson and one in Paisley. If caught, these bears will also be relocated to the Ocala National Forest.
The Pierson bear has been vandalizing a vehicle. The vehicle owner said no food has been kept in the vehicle, but neighbors have left trash out, Hill said.
In Paisley, a bear came into a screened room. When the owners opened the door to see what caused the commotion, a small dog ran outside and was attacked by the bear, but survived. Again, trash is left out in the vicinity, and bears are seen routinely.
The black bear is now delisted as a threatened species. When it was in the threatened category, injuring or killing one was a felony. Now, it is a misdemeanor, Hill said.
The new FWC black-bear management plan has a large component of conflict resolution, Hill said, and the FWC will work with local black-bear advisory groups, getting and giving information on a local level rather than statewide.
"We'll look for local solutions, and manage more on a local level," she said.
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