Central Florida residents have long been encouraged to appreciate and peacefully coexist with bears — unless, of course, a bear dares to wander out of residents’ nightmares and onto their streets. With the 13th annual Florida Black Bear Festival scheduled to take place in Umatilla on March 31, one would-be guest of honor has been executed for doing just that.
The bear in question was deemed a pain in the ass after biting Seminole County resident Terri Gurley’s posterior.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on March 16 that “the 57-year-old woman turned her head after tossing her pup’s waste into the trash compactor of her Seminole County apartment complex when she came within five feet of a 300-pound female black bear” whose “yearling cub was nearby.”
Gurley, the Orlando Sentinel report indicates, “suffered four puncture wounds that will heal faster than the trauma, she said.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel report, the bear had “become a nuisance in the community because of an open trash bin that has become its main food source, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. ‘That kind of behavior cannot be tolerated,’ FWC’s spokeswoman Joy Hill said. ‘She has to go.'”
A follow-up story in the Orlando Sentinel pointed out that the incident was “the first documented bear attack in the (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s) history.”
In the Orlando Sentinel’s follow-up story, Arelis R. Hernández attempted to provide answers to questions like “Why must the bear be euthanized?” and “Can’t it be relocated?”
“There aren’t many areas large and remote enough in Florida to relocate bears, which often wander back to congested areas to resume their dumpster-diving ways,” Ms. Hernández explained, presumably paraphrasing a response from the FFWCC, whose spokesperson, Ms. Hill, said, “It saddens me but we have to put that aside. We (wildlife officials) all love animals or we would not be working in this field, but as good wildlife-management officers we have to make these tough decisions.”
Apparently, in cases like this, “wildlife-management officers” moonlight as judges, juries, and executioners.
Ms. Hill, it seems, isn’t familiar with the nearby Ocala National Forest.
According to the United States Forest Service website, the Ocala National Forest is an area “encompassing approximately 383,000 acres,” including “four wilderness areas” totaling “26, 580 acres.” Those areas were established, the Forest Service website indicates, “to maintain plants and animals native to the area by protecting the entire community of plant and animal life.”
The mission of above-mentioned Florida Black Bear Festival — which, again, is scheduled to take place on March 31 in Umatilla (whose website describes the city as “the Gateway to the Ocala National Forest”) — is to “increase awareness and promote safe coexistence of humans and bears by fostering community appreciation of the Florida black bear and Florida’s unique ecosystems that serve as its habitat,” according to the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce website.
The festival, the chamber’s website tells us, has been organized since its inception in 1999 by “the City of Umatilla and Umatilla Chamber of Commerce, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the United States Forest Service, the Sierra Club and WalkAbout Adventures.”
Language on the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce website should be updated to say that the mission of the Florida Black Bear Festival is to “promote safe coexistence of humans and bears” as long as the latter doesn’t trespass on human-owned property or in any way frighten or come into physical contact with the former.
Ms. Hill was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel’s follow-up story as saying the bear suspected of attacking Ms. Gurley had “crossed the line” and “taken up territory in human living conditions.”
In this Orlando Sentinel video, Ms. Hill explains that the bear “bit (Ms. Gurley) in the butt, but then apparently let her go, which indicates to us a bear that is protecting a lot of things, its food source, its cub … basically its territory. So this bear has made this little apartment complex her territory. Now, the woman got up and was, you know, hightailing it to get out of there and the bear was following her — not at a dead gallop, but following her. And by bear behavior, according to our bear biologists, that’s essentially escorting this person out of her territory. Had it been a predatory attack, the woman never would have gotten up.”
An Orlando Sentinel report published earlier today confirmed that the bear was executed.
“Wildlife officials,” today’s Orlando Sentinel report indicates, “will place the cub in a captive situation, which could be a zoo or some other type of private habitat. But it’s too early to say exactly where the cub will go, Hill said.”
No matter where the cub is imprisoned, he or she will forever remain motherless, thanks to the same Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officials who, through their participation in the Florida Black Bear Festival, claim to “promote safe coexistence of humans and bears.”