On Sunday, officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) euthanized the largest-documented black bear in the state’s history. According to The News-Press, the massive 740-pound male bear was captured days before while roaming through populated neighborhoods in Seminole County. He was even sighted lingering around a local elementary school. Given that it weighed nearly 500 pounds more than the average male black bear in Florida, experts believe that the animal had gotten to its size by ransacking dumpsters and other sources of human food. Officers also discovered that the animal was injured, which (in addition to its apparent fearlessness of humans) led them to decide to euthanize the animal.
“We don’t want to kill any animal, especially an impressive and majestic animal like that,” Mike Orlando, a FWC biologist, told The Orlando Sentinel. “But public safety is paramount.”
The bear was lured into a trap in Alaqua Lakes and sedated before being transported to a holding facility. For bait, wildlife officers used a method that proved highly successful for catching bears in the wild: a long sock filled with donuts and drenched in syrup. A similar technique was used to capture the state’s previous largest bear, a 620-pound male that was found rummaging through trash bins near Ocala National Forest. That bear was relocated to the wilderness successfully, but officials stress that bears finding food in populated areas can be very dangerous.
“We don’t always rush out and capture them just because they’re big,” Orlando said. “No bear—not big ones, little ones or the medium-sized ones—should be comfortable in neighborhoods.”
Black bears were once rare in the Sunshine State, but their numbers are rising and some lawmakers are calling for the return of the state’s bear hunting season. There has been no recreational hunting season in Florida since 1994, but the increase in bear sightings and nuisance bears is leading game officials to reconsider the issue. Next month the FWC will meet to discuss management options for the state’s black bears, which may include broaching the subject of the state’s first bear hunt in over two decades.