When Victor Peters found a 400-pound black bear tearing through his sunroom in a search for food Wednesday night, the mild-mannered retired park ranger wanted things to work out amicably for both sides. However, when the bear decided otherwise, Peters had his Marlin 1895 there to help even the odds.
A black bear, similar to this one, attacked a Florida man's home on two consecutive nights. Photo Wikipedia.
The first break in
The story began the day before when Peters, 64, of Lady Lake, Florida came out to discover that a 35-pound bag of dog food for his Rhodesian Ridgeback, ironically named Bear, had been destroyed, a hole made in the wall of his sunroom, and the windows destroyed. A recent transplant to the state from Michigan where he had spent 30 years as a wildlife officer and park ranger, he quickly figured out that the culprit was likely a very different type of bear rather than his canine companion.
Photo by WESH2
After calls to local authorities, who advised him to take any dog food and trash inside and to be vigilant, Peters broke out his Marlin 1895 big bore in .45.70 that he used to hunt feral hog in the state and loaded it-- just in case. This later turned out to be a good idea.
The second go around
Around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, Oct. 22, Peters responded to a clamor in his sunroom and came nearly face to face with a 7-foot long, 400-500 pound black bear.
"I yelled at him. I said, 'Hey, get!' figuring that might scare him. It didn't," Peters told WESH2. "It looked me right in the eye and started walking toward me."
Photo by WESH2
Then, with the bear ten feet from him, and facing what he felt was no other options, Peters used his Marlin, not needing the Barska scope at that range, and put the animal down cleanly with one shot to the head with what photos show to be a Hornady LEVERevolution .45/70 load.
"I didn't feel like I had any choice," he told the Orlando Sentinel. "If a bear is that bold around people, someone was going to get hurt eventually."
Lady Lake man shoots, kills 400-pound bear in sun room by WESH2
Black Bears in Florida
Your typical bear in the Sunshine State is the Florida Black Bear, a species that ranges from the state into nearby Alabama and Mississippi. Once hunted nearly to extinction, the state ended hunting seasons in 1994. However, numbers of these bears in the state have increased over the past few decades to where in 2012 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) delisted the Florida Black Bear from the state's threatened species list, reporting that over 3000 of these large critters are now believed in the state.
The number of bear calls that the FWC gets per year also evidences this. In 1990, the agency only received just 99 calls statewide concerning black bears. By 2013, this has skyrocketed to over 6600, with two thirds of these calls being for bears in garbage or someone's yard. This can spell trouble if one of these animals finds food, as they are likely to return.
"Once bears find an area that has food they will continue to forage in the area until the food source is removed. It takes some time (up to several weeks) even after preventative methods have been implemented before the persistent bear will understand that the food source is no longer available," reads a warning on the FWC website.
A fed bear is a dead bear
Bears in the late summer and early fall, which we are in now, are looking for up to 20,000 calories a day to fortify themselves for the upcoming winter. As easy to get human food waste and pet food is packed with easy calories it's easy to see why the large animal chose to come back to Peters' home for seconds. As this rarely ends well, FWC refers to the phenomena, as "a fed bear is a dead bear."
This has led to another new trend in the Deep South state-- documented bear attacks. Once exceedingly rare, Florida witnessed its first modern bear attack in 2006 and since then, some 15 have occurred. In the most serious one, last December, a large female bear, biting her in the face and shaking her before she managed to fight her way free, attacked a 54-year old Seminole County woman walking her dogs at night.
While FWC officials have retrieved the bear from Peters' home and are conducting an investigation, as it is still illegal to shoot the species in the state, they state that the retiree likely did the right thing.
"It's a mess," FWC spokesman Greg Workman said. "But it sounds like he did what he should have done."
Photo by WESH2