LAKE PLACID - A small dog was killed by a bear in Highlands Park Estates Wednesday.
Samantha Lee, the owner of the Chihuahua that was killed, said the bear chased her dog while she was in the yard with it. Contrary to the Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesman, the bear ate the dog, Lee insisted.
FF&W said the dog chased the bear and that the bear did not try to eat the dog, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the FF&W. Lee was angry that those accusations were made.
Lee said the bear has been seen around her yard for nearly a month. Morse said the bear was in trash outside of Lee's residence.
It is the first dog killed in Highlands County by a bear in recent memory, he added.
Morse said there has been an increase in the bear sightings in the area recently. There have been four reported sightings in Highlands Parks Estates in particular, he added.
State officials are searching the area for bears but have not found any yet.
"Bear reports have grown as the human population has grown," Morse said. "We compete with the bears for habitat."
Wildlife efforts have helped increase the bear population as well, he added.
The biggest issue, Morse said, is "attractants," such as bird feeders, trash that is not secured and other food supplies that bring bears in closer contact with humans.
Morse suggested people have bear-resistent trash cans and to be careful with bird feeders.