Susan Chalfant, 54, remains hospitalized after a bear attack on Monday that nearly took her life. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Chalfant was walking two small dogs in Longwood, Florida when she was mauled in what wildlife officials are calling the most serious bear attack ever documented in Florida.
Bear attacks are rare in the Sunshine State, and the animals have an instinctive fear of dogs. Most of the time bears will attempt to avoid dogs whenever the two animals meet, although large males, sows with cubs, or especially bold bears may chase canines. Residents of the neighborhood where Chalfant was attacked say that bears have been increasingly bold in recent years.
“We don’t feel comfortable leaving the house,” said resident Paul Ziccardi. “We don’t at all anymore after dusk.”
Due to the severity of her injuries, officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have not been able to speak with Chalfant. The FWC has also been unable to find any witnesses of the attack. Instead, the woman was found covered in blood and moaning in pain after the bear had left. The extent of her injuries has not yet been detailed, although officials say the wounds are serious but Chalfant is expected to recover.
WFTV reported that a young female black bear has been trapped in connection with the attack and the FWC is investigating to see if it is the one that mauled Chalfant on Monday. If so, it is likely that the bear will be euthanized.
There are only about 3,000 black bears in Florida and up until recently, they were considered a threatened species in the state. Bear-related incidents have been more than rare; they have been practically nonexistent. In fact, the first unprovoked bear attack in the state was documented just last year. Wildlife officials say that an increasing bear population and expanding suburban development may account for the rise in bear complaints across the state.