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Florida woman survives bear mauling; clamped its jaws on her head

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A Central Florida woman was recovering at home on Monday after a bear knocked her down outside her house, clamped its jaw on her head and tried to drag her away on Saturday, her husband said.

Terri Frana, 44, of Lake Mary, received stitches and staples in the back of her head to close a wound, and had visible gashes on her forehead, back and around her mouth, according to Greg Workman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Workman said that as of Monday morning, wildlife officers had killed five bears in the area that seemed to have lost their fear of humans. One bear was shot after it continued to advance toward officers whose yelling usually scares them off.

DNA testing will determine whether they caught the bear involved in the attack.

Frana was attacked in her driveway on Saturday evening after she went outside to check on her children.

"She started pulling me toward the woods," Frana, a mother of two, told WESH-TV. "I just thought, 'God, please this can't be the end. It can't end like this.'"

Frana's home is located in a part of Florida where urban sprawl has plopped homes in former wilderness areas connected to the 600-square-mile Ocala National Forest, fracturing bear habitat and allowing people to live alongside long-established bear trails.

Calls about bears, including reports of sick or injured bears, more than quadrupled in Florida over the past decade, and more than half of actual complaints come from Central Florida, according to the wildlife commission.

In December, Susan Chalfant, 54, of nearby Longwood, was attacked by a bear while walking her dog. Chalfant told neighbors who found her bleeding profusely from the head that she didn't see the bear that knocked her to the ground.

Wildlife officials try to educate the public about ways to avoid interactions with bears and keep both people and bears safe. At the top of the list is keeping food garbage out of reach.

"The fact that we have come across so many bears with so little fear of humans indicates that these bears are highly habituated and are regularly receiving food from people," said Dave Telesco, the FWC's bear program coordinator.

"Our staff is dedicated to wildlife conservation. Having to put down these bears is a very difficult decision, but it's the right decision to ensure public safety. Unfortunately, the saying is true: A fed bear is a dead bear."

(Editing by David Adams and Leslie Adler)

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