Woman arrested for continuing to feed bears in Florida

Feb. 1, 2014 at 11:43 AM
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SEBRING, Fla., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A retired gym teacher in central Florida has been arrested for ignoring orders to stop feeding bears at her home in Sebring.

Wildlife officials say they have tried repeatedly to convince Mary Musselman, 81, her actions endanger both people and bears, WFTS-TV, Tampa, reported. Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said the agency "went the extra mile" with her, showing her educational videos and giving her pamphlets.

The commission first realized what Musselman was up to when a bear she had been feeding had to be put down.

"Feeding bears results in bears losing their fear of people," Morse said, adding that the bears cannot simply be moved.

Musselman, who was given a warning in November and placed on probation in December, told agents she did not plan to stop. A judge ordered her arrest Thursday, and she was being held without bond.

The arrest has upset many residents of Sebring, a small town where Musselman was a middle-school physical education teacher for many years.

Karron Tedder, a former student, called the arrest "outrageous." He and others in town say Musselman is an animal lover who simply does not understand what she is doing.

Morse said Musselman appears to believe the bears would starve without the large dishes of dog food she puts out.

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