‘Humongous’ bear attacks Walton man

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Forest Lakes subdivision is county’s first documented bear attack

DEBORAH WHEELER @WaltonSunDeb

SANTA ROSA BEACH — The first documented bear attack in Walton County has been reported with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

About 9 p.m. Sept. 8, Troy Roach’s 9-year-old son Jackson told his father that he was going to take the dogs out for their nightly walk in the Forest Lakes subdivision.

“He has done it alone before, so I almost said ‘OK’ and let him go,” Roach said.

But at the last second Roach decided to go with him.

Roach and Bella, their boxer, went out the front door first with Jackson and their Maltese not far behind.

As he stepped off the porch of the house, Roach heard some rustling in the wooded area across the street. But it was dark out and he couldn’t see anything until out of the night came a “humongous” black bear charging toward him and Bella.

“She came for the dog, so I got between them and she swiped my back, knocking me down,” Roach said.

As the dog and bear tussled, Roach ran back in the house, grabbed a pellet gun and shot the bear.

“She stumbled but drug Bella off into the woods,” Roach said. “As I turned to tell Jackson to get back inside, Bella came streaking out of the woods from across the street with the bear behind her. I opened the door and Bella and I went inside.”

The bear came up to the porch’s fourth step before retreating.

Roach called the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, which responded along with a Florida Fish and Wildlife agent.

The deputy who responded saw two bear cubs wandering around and the FWC agent saw the mother walking down the street. She had knocked over a neighbor’s trash can and dragged it into the woods.

The agent estimated the bear to be an adult female weighing between 300 and 400 pounds and concluded that Roach must have gotten between the mother and her cubs.

As for Bella, her veterinarian Dr. Tonia Shatzel said that although she suffered six or seven puncture wounds to her legs from the bear’s teeth, she would be fine.

“We were unbelievably lucky,” Roach said. “She charged us and we barely had time to react.”

Bekah Nelson, FWC’s regional public information director, said the agency set traps in the vicinity of the incident Friday night through Sunday afternoon to try to capture the bear but were unsuccessful. The traps were removed Sunday evening because of safety concerns from approaching Hurricane Irma.

“We are thankful that both the man and his dog are OK,” Nelson said. “We take this incident and all human-bear conflicts very seriously.”

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