Florida deputies shot and killed a young black bear in a residential Florida neighborhood over the weekend — prompting anger from some residents and sparking a feud between deputies and wildlife officials.
Officers from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department shot the animal four times after monitoring its movements for several hours Saturday, asserting that they requested a trapper who never arrived.
The department has accused responding Florida Wildlife Commission agents of failing to secure help after they requested assistance and said they waffled on a containment strategy.
“The bear had NO place to roam safely!” the department wrote in a statement after facing a backlash from residents who said the bear was not acting aggressively. “Fearing the bear would roam into the residential communities and/or impede traffic flow on the adjacent roadways PBSO was faced with making the decision to discharge their shotguns striking and killing the bear.”
Deputies arrived at Saratoga Lakes after 8 a.m. Saturday and shut down several surrounding streets in an effort to limit the strolling creature’s perimeter.
The bear entered the backyard of a home and climbed a tree before descending and continuing its tour.
Deputies followed the animal and it again clambered up a large pine tree.
Agents from the Florida Wildlife Commission arrived and told deputies that they should kill the bear if it came down before they could secure a trapper or safely tranquilize it.
Palm Beach sheriff’s officials contend that FWC personnel later changed their strategy and advised police to let the animal leave the area on its own.
Hours later, and with no trapper in sight, officers shot and killed the bear after it came down the tree.
“We are not the bear police,” the agency said. “We don’t know how to handle a bear. It is our responsibility to keep the public safe.”
Florida wildlife officials are probing the incident and plan to release a report.
Black bears have become an increasingly frequent presence in residential Florida neighborhoods with the expansion of development into their habitats.