A Florida man faces 16 charges after a bear and one of her cubs was found shot dead in what the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has dubbed a “deliberate” and “heinous act.”
John Falango, 43, of Sebring, is accused of killing the pair, which were found dead on Oct. 26, 2021, in the Sun ‘n Lake community, about 95 miles southeast of Tampa.
“Officers and biologists ... found that one adult female bear and one cub had been shot and killed,” the commission said in a news release.
“FWC biologists were able to successfully trap one uninjured cub after arriving on scene. ... One additional cub was seen in the immediate area but trapping efforts were unsuccessful.”
It’s unknown why the bears were killed. Florida hasn’t had a bear hunting season since 2015. The state is home to an estimated 4,050 black bears, experts say, including males that can get as big as 760 pounds.
Biologists determined the captured cub was healthy and big enough to fend for itself, so it was “safely released into a more suitable habitat,” officials said.
Investigators called the “deliberate shooting a heinous act,” saying Falango will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office.
Falango is charged with: four counts of unlawful taking of a bear during closed season (first-degree misdemeanor); four counts of taking or attempting to take a black bear without authorization or permit (second-degree misdemeanor); four counts of taking or attempting to take a bear cub or bear with one or more bear cubs (second-degree misdemeanor), and four counts of taking or attempting to take a bear by illegal method (second-degree misdemeanor), officials said.
“This egregious violation serves as a reminder of why our work is so important,” Col. Roger Young of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement said in a release.
“The deliberate shooting of these two bears is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”