Updated: Jul 11
Photo by Greg Meland
Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies say they had no choice but to shoot a black bear wandering in a residential neighborhood in Royal Palm Beach on June 18, but state officials disagree.
The bear was first seen in the Saratoga Lakes neighborhood around 8 a.m. that Saturday.
The bear, estimated to weigh 300 pounds and stand 6 feet tall, climbed a tree and was spotted when the family’s dog began barking incessantly.
Deputies monitored the bear while they waited several hours for a trapper who did not arrive in time.
The bear climbed down the tree, but deputies, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, were able to get it to climb back up by shouting, making loud noises and hitting nearby trees.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said the deputies were assisting the FWC officers “until they were able to locate a trapper, tranquilize the bear and relocate it.”
When the bear descended a second time and ignored attempts to force it back up, the deputies decided to kill the bear, which they shot four times with 12-gauge shotguns.
“It should be noted that the bear had no place to roam safely,” Barbera said. “The incident location and surrounding area are residential neighborhoods.” She said the deputies feared that the bear would endanger residents or impede traffic.
But Lonnie Brevik, an FWC officer who reported on the killing, said the juvenile black bear “was never a safety hazard while I was on scene.”
Brevik said the state officers explained their plan to capture the bear, but after 30 minutes the deputies said they had orders to shoot the bear if it came down from the tree.
The FWC did not authorize the Sheriff’s Office to kill the bear, Brevik wrote. “The bear was moving to get away from the officers when it was shot and killed on the far side east of the pine tree.”
As a protected animal, the FWC said, the bear should not have been killed unless it presented deadly force toward humans. The sheriff’s lieutenant on the scene, however, said he was authorized to kill the bear.
The FWC said the incident is still under review.