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Bear suspected of mauling Florida woman trapped and killed

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A 200-pound (90 kg) female bear suspected of mauling and seriously injuring a central Florida woman earlier this week was caught on Wednesday night and killed, state wildlife authorities said.

"We decided to follow the course of an abundance of caution and put the bear down," said Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"Public safety is a top priority," Wiley said in a statement Thursday.

Susan Chalfant, 54, was injured by a bear while out walking her two small dogs Monday evening in Longwood, a leafy residential area about 15 miles north of Orlando.

Neighbors described her as bleeding profusely from the head after the attack and she was hospitalized at the Orlando Regional Medical Center for what officials described as non-life-threatening injuries. The hospital declined to release an update on Chalfant's condition Thursday.

Wildlife officers had placed three traps, baited with glazed doughnuts, on a natural bear trail that runs alongside Longwood in the immediate aftermath of Monday's rare attack.

A female yearling captured Tuesday night was removed to a rehabilitation center in Crystal River, wildlife officers said.

A second bear, caught Wednesday night, closely matched the description of the one that attacked Chalfant and was quickly euthanized, according to Karen Parker, a wildlife commission spokeswoman.

Parker said trapping would continue in the Longwood area due to public safety concerns. But she added that bears are particularly apt to forage in neighborhoods during the fall, when they are trying to fatten up for the winter.

Complaints about Florida black bears have more than quadrupled over the past decade, reaching 6,159 in 2012 alone, according to statistics maintained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The problem has grown as urban and suburban sprawl brought more people into former wilderness areas where housing developments fractured bear habitat and left homeowners near bear trails.

Less than 1 percent of bear complaints involve a person threatened by a bear. Rarely is anyone injured.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Alden Bentley)

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