Terri Frana, from an upscale neighborhood in Seminole County Florida had a nasty encounter with at least one hungry black bear on Saturday evening. Reports vary as to how the encounter actually happened but what is known is that she was mauled by the bear and sustained injuries that required medical attention at the local hospital. One consensus is that she was attacked by at least one black bear from either within, or near her garage, perhaps in the area of her patio.
According to Seminole County Sheriff Lt. Pete Brenenstuhl, Frana reported that as many as five black bears were sifting through her trash cans when she came into the garage to retrieve her children’s bicycles. It was then that at least one bear turned aggressive, mauling and dragging the woman out into her driveway causing multiple injuries.
According to the woman’s husband, Frank Frana, one bear stood up, took his wife’s head into its mouth, and started “dragging her into the woods.” Somehow, Frana was able to escape the grip of the bear and get back into her house where she was later discovered by her son who, after finding her incapacitated, called 911 for medical assistance.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) Lt. Jeff Hudsen will only confirm that Frana had an encounter with one black bear, not five bears as has been reported.
Although the 45-year-old woman has since been released from the hospital, there are reports that she received at least three bear bites severe enough to cause lacerations on her body and which necessitated 40 stiches to wounds on her head. The bear culprits meanwhile are still on the loose and by some reports authorities are currently searching for them in the area of Markham Road, just South of the Seminole Soccer Club and have set out at least one bear trap.
According to the FWC, with the advent of spring, bears have emerged from their winter dens and are on the move. Because they are hungry, they are more likely to venture out of their natural habitat and into neighborhoods. While some might find the sighting of black bears a “thrilling experience’ the FWC wants to remind people that these animals are “wild” and “deserve respect.” In other words, feeding bears or allowing them access to human garbage can result in a dangerous situation for bear and human alike. As the FWC puts it, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” In the case of Terri Frana, a fed bear resulted in a mauled woman.
It is not just trash cans containing human garbage that attract the bears. They are also attracted to pet food, feed intended for livestock, birdseed and even barbecue grills that still emit the tasty odors from grilled meat. According to the FWC, bears can smell these food sources from more than a mile away and they will travel great distances and defeat obstacles like highways and bridges just to discover the source of the compelling scent.
Considering their dedication to finding food, it is no wonder that a small human being presents little to no challenge to the hungry black bears who have spent a long winter hibernating and are in need of sustenance. In fact, the bears have learned that the caloric content of garbage is much higher than what they can find by foraging naturally. These, “educated” bears present a danger to themselves and those who cross paths with them including adults, children and even family dogs who may die while acting as guard dogs.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission suggests that when involved in a black bear encounter, allow the bear an escape route and attempt to “scare it away” using the deterrent of loud sounds. They recommend the use of an air horn or the banging together of pots and pans. It can only be assumed that the Florida woman who was mauled and dragged from the area of her garage lacked the element of surprise and was instead, caught unaware in a very dangerous situation. The best defense against such a mauling is a good offense and preventing access to all sources of food is the most effective way to keep wild black bears out of neighborhoods.
By Alana Marie Burke
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