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Black bear shooting investigation update

OKALOOSA COUNTY   --  When black bears make themselves at home in a neighborhood, fear and frustration often result.
   
Now an 82-year-old man is facing charges for killing two bears in his yard.
The incident happened on Ponderosa Road in Fort Walton Beach, on the afternoon of October 18.
   
Ralph Ward got out his gun after he says bears attacked his dog.
   
Wildlife agents say he didn't have to shoot.
Laura Hussey "People in this neighborhood off of North Beal Extension have been having bear problems for months. Some people tell us they liked seeing the bears around the neighborhood. Others were scared, not just for themselves but for their children"
   
Black bears like these had taken up residence near Ralph Ward's home.
Neighbor Mike Longsdorf got a heart-pounding glimpse at his granddaughter's bus stop.

Mike Longsdorf "I mean the bear just ran past us like fifty feet, and we were like....don't move!"
   
On October 18, Ward says three bears attacked his dog.
He told a 9-1-1 operator he was able to rescue the dog and put her inside the house.
   
He got his shotgun and went back outside.
Ward shot a mother bear and her cub from about seventy feet away.

Longsdorf "He had a chance to go back in the house, he could have stayed in the house. But then the community here, he had an obligation"

Longsdorf "I think he did right"
Fish and Wildlife agents say Ward could have avoided danger, but instead went looking for a "bear confrontation".
   
He told the 9-1-1 operator he was worried someone would get hurt.
Ralph Ward/911 call "This makes three bears that's been in my yard in the last two weeks, three was in here the other night. This is dangerous for my children and dangerous for my pet"   
   
When we stopped by, Ward hadn't been notified of the charges and had no comment.
Neighbor Mike Branch says shooting the bears was the wrong choice.

Mike "Very unjustified, very unjustified. But you got older country people out here and they're just used to dealing with things in the old way"

Laura Hussey "Several people had called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission about the bears in the area. Agents had made two visits to the neighborhood, talking to people about how to bear-proof their garbage."         
 
Ward faces a misdemeanor charge for firing a gun near a residence, and two misdemeanors for killing the bears.
  
The charges are misdemeanors because black bears are no longer listed as endangered in Florida