Why was a black bear shot and killed by deputies in Royal Palm? PBSO, FWC have different stories

·3 min read

ROYAL PALM BEACH — A black bear roaming through a residential neighborhood was shot four times and killed on Saturday by Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies, prompting an investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

PBSO deputies shot and killed this black bear in the Saratoga Lakes community in Royal Palm Beach on Saturday.
PBSO deputies shot and killed this black bear in the Saratoga Lakes community in Royal Palm Beach on Saturday.

PBSO said the two officers shot the bear to protect neighbors after waiting five hours for an FWC trapper. Officials from FWC, however, said they never called a trapper because staff determined it was best to let the bear alone for it to return home.

“The bear had NO place to roam safely!” wrote PBSO in a statement. “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.”

Neighbors of Saratoga Lakes community first spotted a 6-foot, 300-pound black bear around 8 a.m. on Saturday, wandering among trees and behind the residential neighborhood.

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PBSO officers arrived on Belmont Drive at 8:09 a.m. and secured the streets along Crestwood Blvd. between Saratoga Blvd. and Royal Palm Beach Blvd., according to the report.

Officers from PBSO and FWC followed the bear as it traveled east toward a tree line and canal outside the neighborhood before it went into the backyard of a house and climbed a tree.

After a short period of time, the bear came down and headed west along the street’s fence before climbing up a large pine tree.

PBSO’s report says the two FWC officers on the scene attempted to locate a trapper or tranquilizer during the four-hour standoff but were “met with negative results.” Deputies were told their role was to assist FWC until they were able tranquilize the bear and relocate it.

FWC denies PBSO's account of a request for a trapper

However, an FWC spokesperson said that isn't true and it never requested a trapper.

"In this instance we were not waiting for a trapper since FWC staff determined the best approach was to let the bear leave the area on its own,"  an FWC statement reads.

According to PBSO's report, FWC officers told police they were ordered to neutralize the bear if a trapper was not on the scene by the time the bear came down from the tree, for public safety.

Hours later, FWC officers informed deputies they were ordered to back away from the bear and “keep an eye on it until nightfall,” the police report read

After relaying the information, PBSO Sargent Bezugle said “PBSO’s role in the situation has changed,” and that they were going to go locate a trapper, said one deputy in the police report.

If the bear were to come down, the order was to “neutralize the bear for the safety of the public.”

When the bear tried to move, all four officers shouted and turned on their sirens in an attempt to keep it from coming down.

At around 12:30 p.m., the bear reached the base of the tree and stepped onto the grass. A PBSO officer fired the first shot hitting the bear's left shoulder causing it to drop on the ground. When the bear tried to get up, the second PBSO officer then followed with two additional shots.

The first officer then “took a merciful shot so the bear did not suffer.”

FWC is still investigating the incident and is expected to release a report by the end of the week.

vpalm@pbpost.com

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Black bear shot and killed in Royal Palm Beach by PBSO deputies