MARY ESTHER, Fla (WALA) - Residents in Okaloosa County have been getting regular visits from some unexpected guests. A number of black bear sightings have been occurring regularly.
Many folks on Mary Esther Drive in Mary Esther, Florida, are having up close and personal run-ins with the animals.
Jerry Richaud lives here on Mary Esther Drive with his wife and their dog. Recently, he and others along the road have been dealing with some black bear visitors.
Richaud was in his home a few nights ago when he says his latest sighting began.
"I heard a crash in the backyard. The dog went outside and barked. That's when the bear went behind the tree. Next thing I know, he went up the tree. So, I got a flashlight and shined it on him. He then came down and went into my neighbors yard," said Richaud.
Richaud said the bear has been exploring yards around the neighborhood and he said the bear actually broke off parts of the top of his fence.
Richard Boyle, who lives just down the street, had his fence completely caved in by a bear. He said he's already had to replace it several times.
"They're ravaging through areas and looking for things to eat. We see them just running and roaming through the neighborhood. This is a pretty dangerous situation, not only for people but for the bear too," Boyle said.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirm that several dogs in the area have been bitten by bears. One dog actually had to be put down due to its injuries.
"It's scary because you wonder if you can let your dog out at night. If you go with him, then you're both in danger. If you walk out your front door you wonder what's around the corner. It's just not good," said Richaud.
Officials said a 155 pound black bear that had bitten several dogs in Fort Walton Beach was caught and euthanized.
Due to safety concerns, officials said they are unable to place traps around Mary Esther Drive.
They said there have been 104 bear complaints in Okaloosa County since the first of January, 2012.
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