Woman’s bear encounter a reminder about living with wildlife in SWFL

We told you about the encounter a woman says she and her two small dogs had with a mother black bear and her cubs on Christmas Eve morning. It’s an encounter wildlife agencies take seriously.

Kathleen Boyle told WINK News a mother bear came after her when she ran into two bear cubs on her morning walk with her two West Highland White Terriers, Bear and Robin.

Boyle said she was able to escape with the help of her two dogs and a bicyclist who rode by in the Fiddler’s Creek community, where she lives with her husband and their two pets.

“And as I was trying to punch her, she came at me,” Boyle recalled.

Wildlife experts say everyone needs to be prepared for this sort of situation.

“We live in a place, especially if you live right against wild areas or natural areas, that there will be wildlife encounters, bears included,” said Katie Johnson, the community engagement coordinator for Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Luckily, the encounter ended well for both Boyle and her dogs.

“I know I’m one of the lucky ones,” Boyle said.

She says what ultimately allowed her to escape the mother bear was the nearby biker and her dogs.

“[Bear], really, by charging her let me know that she was there, and he’s showing the injuries for it, but he is, he really saved us from the attack,” Boyle said. “And then the biker really was able to help scare her off and get her back.”

Boyle also says she knew what to do during the attack.

“I’m jumping up and screaming and doing what you’re supposed to do, make yourself big, deep voice,” Boyle said.

On Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website, it says, when attacked by a black bear, you need to fight back aggressively, even with your bare hands as Boyle did.

“I tried to, you know, get my arms drawn out and throat punch but pull back quickly so that she couldn’t get me,” Boyle said.

As for what not to do, according to FWC, do not play dead or try to climb a tree, and, of course, don’t approach a bear in the first place.

“They really want to mind their own business,” Johnson said. “They don’t want anything to do with us, and, really, a lot of times with animals, their last resort is going to be to approach a human.”

Boyle’s situation is a reminder that, even when you’re careful, these encounters can happen.

“I truly owe it to those dogs,” Boyle said. “I mean, she she’s 2 years old, and she went out for the momma bear. He’s 17 months, and he went up to the momma bear to protect me.”

Go to MyFWC.com/Bear to learn more about living in bear country.

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Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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