UPDATE: FWC Says PBSO Was Not Authorized To Kill Black Bear In Royal Palm Beach
PBSO Says Deputies Had No Choice, FWC Says Otherwise.
The controversial shooting of a Florida Black Bear by PBSO deputies in Royal Palm Beach has garnished the interest of animal conservation groups and their attorneys. Boca Post has learned that State Attorney David Aronberg has requested information to review whether or not PBSO deputies broke any laws in the shooting of this Black Bear that PBSO says had “no choice” but to kill.
A review of the report by FWC officers who were on the scene tells a very different story. According to the report, the FWC officers, who are specially trained in dealing with these types of situations, had a different plan. When the officers approached PBSO with their plan, they were told that the PBSO chain of command ordered that the deputies shoot the bear. The report states that PBSO was not authorized by FWC to kill the bear.
People are asking, why did PBSO call FWC for help in the first place if the law enforcement agency wasn’t going to follow their direction? What authority does PBSO have to decide to terminate the life of an animal that was not showing any signs of aggression or threat?
Interestingly, PBSO released a statement about the shooting of the Florida Black Bear, a protected species, saying that the agency had no other choice but to kill the bear. The responding FWC officers clearly disagreed.
A copy of the entire narrative from both reports submitted by the two responding FWC officers can be found below:
Statement from FWC Officer Lonnie Brevik
On June 18th, 2022, at approximately 0820 hours, I, Officer Lonnie Brevik of the Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation commission (FWC) was conducting a state land patrol in Loxahatchee, Palm Beach County. FWC dispatch advised me that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) was requesting our assistance with a Florida Black Bear that was spotted in Royal PalmBeach. Florida Black Bears are native to Florida but are rare to be seen in Palm Beach County. Though Bears are rare to Palm BeachCounty, they are common around the state in human-populated areas. June is the start of Florida Black Bear mating season, when Florida Black Bears may be seen passing through different areas in the state. The Florida Black Bear is a protected species in Florida and is shy and generally not aggressive.
I contacted FWC biologist Sean Mchugh on my way to the scene and notified him of the sighting and contacted PBSO advising them I was responding to the area to assist. I arrived on the scene and met with multiple PBSO deputies and a PBSO sergeant. I advised all of them that I was in contact with FWC biologists and my chain of command. The Florida Black Bear was located again by a person in the neighborhood and then spotted by PBSO drones. The Florida black bear was approximately 200 pounds and was later identified as a juvenile male. FWC Officer Jason Willems arrived on the scene to assist.FWC biologist Sean Mchugh advised me and Officer Willems to attempt to safely haze the juvenile Florida Black Bear up a tree to isolate the animal.
At approximately 1005 hours, Officer Willems and I approached the juvenile Florida Black Bear and easily hazed it into a tree by using our voices to yell and walking towards the bear. The juvenile Florida Black Bear appeared to be afraid of humans as it climbed up the tree to avoid us. Officer Willems and I maintained a position near the juvenile Florida Black Bear that was in a tall pine tree between the residence of 115 Belmont Drive and Crestwood Blvd.
I continued to stay in contact with FWC biologist Sean Mchughand my FWC law enforcement chain of command to see if the Florida Black Bear needed to be relocated. Several options were discussed including tranquilizing, relocating, and trapping. After considering the totality of the circumstances, the Program Coordinator Dave Telesco and Assistant Program Coordinator MikeOrlando of FWC Bear Management Program, who have vast experience with Florida Black Bears, came to the conclusion that the Florida Black Bear was to be left alone and monitored from a distance so it could find a new home/ habitat. There were multiple natural areas that the bear could travel to, including J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area (approximately miles 8 miles Northwest), Pond Cypress/Grassy Water Preserve (approximately 1 mile East), neighborhood woods (approximately .66 miles Southwest), and Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge(approximately 9 miles Southwest).
At approximately 1145 hours, PBSO was notified, and their chain of command was notified of the plan of action made by FWC. I relayed the plan of action to the PBSO deputy on scene and he passed the information to his sergeant by phone, giving his chain of command the plan of action and giving them my lieutenant’s contact information if they had any questions. I notified both PBSO deputies on scene, that I would remain on scene and monitor the FloridaBlack Bear.
Shortly after I notified PBSO of the plan of action, a deputy asked me to move my marked FWC patrol vehicle. I asked them what was going on. At approximately 1215 hours, PBSO deputies on scene notified me that they were directed by their chain of command to shoot the juvenile Florida Black Bear when it came down from the tree. PBSO was notified of the FWC plan of action but failed to heedFWC’s direction.
I told all PBSO personnel on the scene to not shoot the bear and that they don’t want to shoot the bear. A PBSO lieutenant arrived on the scene. I told both deputies on scene that I would approach their lieutenant and advised him not to follow through with killing the bear. Deputies stated to please go talk to their lieutenant. I approached him and told him not to follow through with killing the Florida BlackBear and that they did not want to kill the Florida Black Bear. The PBSO lieutenant stated that he had approval from the PBSO chain of command to kill the Florida Black Bear. The two deputies with shotguns did express to me that they did not want to shoot the Florida Black Bear, the deputies followed PBSO orders and not the FWCs plan of action. PBSO was not authorized by FWC to kill the bear.
As the Florida Black Bear came down from the tree Officer Willems and I continued to haze the Florida Black Bear using our patrol vehicle sirens and our voices. The two PBSO deputies who were directed to grab their issued shotguns were also yelling at the bear to avoid it from coming down. The Florida Black Bear appeared scared and did not want to be in that tree anymore. At approximately 1220 hours, the Florida Black Bear slowly slid down the tree, got all four of its paws on the ground, and was shot four times by PBSO with PBSO 12g slugs as it quartered away from deputies. The bear was moving to get away from the officers and deputies when it was shot and killed on the far side east of the pine tree. The bear did not show any signs of aggression when it exited the tree. The juvenile Florida Black Bear was never a safety hazard while I was on the scene.
PBSO shut down the roadway afterward. I transported the deceased Florida Black Bear to FWC Jupiter Evidence Storage
Statement from FWC Officer Jason Willems
On 6/18/2022, I, Officer Jason Willems of the FWC was dispatched to a call regarding a black bear in Royal Palm Beach. Once on scene, I met with FWC Officer Lonnie Brevik and several PBSO deputies who were actively searching for the bear. We were able to locate the bear, and Officer Brevik was able to haze the bear up into a tree per our FWC biologist instructions.
The bear was not aggressive and wanted nothing to do we us this made it easy to herd into a tree. After approximately 2hrs the FWC biologist and our COC instructed us to let the bear down from the tree and to observe it from a distance. When PBSO was informed of our plan they decided that they wanted to keep the bear in the tree against our advisement. A short while later the PBSO Deputies on scene informed us that they had been ordered by their COC to shoot the bear if it came down from the tree. FWC Officer Brevik informed the Deputies and their LT. that was on scene that our biologist and COC wanted the bear to be left alone. He also advised them to not kill the bear if it came down from the tree unless there was the threat of an attack.
A short time later the bear started to make its way down the tree, and despite yelling from everyone on the scene, and the sirens from my patrol truck the bear made it to the ground where it turned away from us, began to retreat, and was shot by the PBSO deputies. The bear died at the base of the tree. The PBSO LT. on scene told both of us that he had authorization from PBSO COC to kill the bear. I advised him that the bear was a protected animal and should not have been killed unless it was a deadly force situation, which it was not. We loaded the deceased bear into Officer Brevik’s patrol truck and it was transported to the FWC Jupiter office for storage.
Originally reported by Boca Post
ROYAL PALM BEACH, FL – Boca Post (BocaPost.com) — PBSO responded to the area of Crestwood Boulevard and Royal Palm Beach Boulevard in reference to a Bear sighting that turned deadly for the black bear.
PBSO spokesperson Teri Barbera tells Boca Post that the deputies had no choice but to shoot the black bear with their shotguns while waiting for FWC to trap or tranquilize the wild animal.
The entire statement from PBSO:
At 8:08 am, a PBSO deputy was dispatched to a bear sighting in the area of Crestwood Blvd just west of Royal Palm Beach Blvd located in Royal Beach. Upon arrival, the deputy observed a large black bear, approximately 6’ and estimated at 300 pounds, on the south side of Crestwood Blvd entering the bushes and began walking westbound between the bushes and the fence line. The fence line backs up to residences of Belmont Drive in the Saratoga Lakes Development. The deputy attempted to keep an eye on the bear as it was walking westbound and then lost sight of it. Minutes later he was able to reacquire the bear’s whereabouts as it was now walking eastbound in the bushes towards the canal located just east of the initial sighting. The bear then walked towards the canal and turned south into the backyard of 116 Belmont Drive where the bear climbed a tree that also contained a baby swing and a small trampoline underneath it. The bear was observed to be resting in the tree for a short period of time. The bear then climbed down from the tree and began to walk west through the backyard and back to the bushes along Crestwood Blvd. The bear then traveled west along the fence line. While attempting to locate the bear FWC Officers arrived on the scene.
PBSO deputy spoke with the resident in the 100 block of Belmont Drive who stated that she and her husband were inside her house in the company of her three kids ranging from the age of 1 year of age to 9 years of age. After hearing her dog bark she noticed a black bear inside her covered back porch, approximately five feet from her back slider, an area where her kids normally play. The bear looked in her direction which placed her in fear for her and her family’s life. The bear continued to walk around towards the south side of the house. After a few seconds of the bear going out of her view, she saw the bear again walking back. Directly next to the porch she has a tall tree that the bear climbed. After a few short minutes, the bear came down and continued to walk towards the north side of her residence at which time she lost visual of it.
At 8:59 am, the second deputy arrived at Crestwood Blvd just west of Royal Palm Beach Blvd where he secured a perimeter spot at the southwest corner of Huntington Woods development in reference to locating and containing a black bear that was loose in the Saratoga Lakes development.
At 9:54 am, residents in the 100 block of Belmont Drive contacted PBSO stating the bear was on the side of their residence. The deputy then relocated his vehicle to the front of that residence in an attempt to contain the bear. Moments later the deputy was advised that the bear had climbed a tall tree in the 900 block of Crestwood Blvd so he then repositioned his vehicle to that location and assisted additional deputies and FWC officers who had taken control of the scene to keep the flow of traffic moving and also keep the public away to a reasonable distance for not only their safety but the bears as well.
PBSO Drone units arrived on the scene to attempt to locate the bear. The bear was then observed coming out of the bushes, climbing a large pine tree, and was approximately 50 feet in the air.
The bear stayed in the tree while FWC officers stood at the bottom of the tree to make sure the bear did not climb down. PBSO’s role was to assist FWC Officers until they were able to locate a trapper, tranquilize the bear and relocate it. Deputies stood at a safe distance maintaining a visual of the bear along with FWC Officer’s keeping the public away from the area. The bear began to climb down from the tree when FWC Officers and deputies began yelling at the bear and hitting the nearby trees to make noise to keep the bear in the tree which worked and the bear climbed back up the tree.
After several hours of waiting for a bear trapper and/or a tranquilizer, from FWC, all were met with negative results.
At 12:25 pm, the bear began to climb down the tree. Deputies and FWC Officers again made loud noises in hopes the bear would climb back up the tree in which it did. The bear now was approximately 20 feet up the tree when it began to get restless and climb back down the tree. Again, deputies and FWC officers began yelling in another attempt to keep the bear in the tree which met with negative results and the bear continued climbing down the tree. It should be noted that the bear had NO place to roam safely! The incident location and surrounding area are residential neighborhoods and 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.