Orlando suburbs: Can bears, people co-exist?

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LONGWOOD, Fla. (AP) - Gated, guarded Wingfield North, outside Orlando in Longwood, is a collection of about a hundred houses with pillars and pools and new BMWs parked out front. Golden evening light gleams through the branches of regal oaks draped with Spanish moss. One of the selling points is its proximity to lush woods, coupled with a stated commitment to the preservation of such wild, natural beauty. Another selling point: privacy. It’s set up to keep out - nuisances and intrusions, the uninvited, the unexpected. The residents of Wingfield North purchased not only an above average amount of stucco but also a perceived license to not be bothered.

“Is this a fire or medical emergency?” the Seminole County 911 dispatcher asked.

This was just after 8 at night the first Monday of December.

“Medical,” the man answered. “A woman’s been, I think - mauled by a bear. She’s pleading for quick, quick help.”

“OK, and you said it was a bear, for sure?”

“She thinks it was a bear.”

“And how old is she?”

“I can’t tell. She’s so bloody I can’t tell.”

“Is she awake?” the dispatcher asked.

“She’s awake. My wife’s with her, holding her .”

“OK. Is the bleeding serious?”

“You know, her whole face, it’s bloody. She’s moaning in pain.”

“Hurry,” the man said. “Hurry.”

An ambulance raced past the gate with the guard on the way in, then raced past the gate with the guard on the way out, whisking to Orlando Regional Medical Center 5-foot-7, blond-haired, blue-eyed, 54-year-old Susan Chalfant, bitten on the head, face and neck, the victim of the worst bear attack in the recorded history of Florida.


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