Thomas Eason, who heads habitat and species conservation for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Wednesday the killings may have been a mistake, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He said the bears were killed before officials learned Tuesday night a female bear with two cubs was the animal that attacked Susan Chalfant.
"There are things we could've done better, but we were reacting to a tragic situation," Eason said. "We are dedicated to being better."
Chalfant was seriously injured in the attack Dec. 2 in a Seminole County subdivision. Eason said when the bears were killed officials were unsure if the attacking animal could be conclusively identified through DNA.
A juvenile bear that was also trapped was released in a wildlife refuge.
The female bear will not be killed, Eason said. She and the cubs are currently at Busch Gardens, and the cubs will be released once they are old enough to fend for themselves, while their mother will remain in captivity.
The area where the attack took place has had the highest number of complaints of nuisance bears in Florida. Officials and wildlife advocates say the combination of a growing bear population and residential sprawl has created a dangerous situation.
Easy access to trash has changed bears' behavior, experts say.