Society

81-Year-Old Held By Police For Feeding Bears, Cancer-Stricken Husband Left Alone At Home

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

An 81-year-old retired teacher in Florida was arrested for repeatedly feeding black bears near her home.

Now, Mary Musselman’s former students are begging police to release her so she can care for her cancer-stricken husband.

Musselman is facing charges ranging from battery on a law enforcement officer to violation of probation.

"I think it is outrageous," said Karron Tedder, Musselman's former student, to ABC Action News.

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Police say they warned her to stop feeding bears dog food from about 18 bowls she leaves outside her home.

Florida Fish and Wildlife told ABC they had to euthanize a black bear she kept feeding last year because it became a hazard to humans.

"Feeding bears results in bears' losing their fear of people," said FWC spokesman Gary Morse. "Feeding wildlife puts the community at risk from property destruction to possible danger of life and limb."

FWC officers tried to educate Musselman about the dangers of feeding the bears, but Morse said, “She told us she wasn’t going to stop.”

FWC said two more bears were on her property in November.

She was issued a notice to appear in court on Dec. 6, where a judge ordered her to stop feeding the wild animals. FWC officers were ordered to check the residence weekly.

On Dec. 24, she appeared in court again and admitted to charges that she was feeding two to three bears large amounts of dog food.

She was placed on probation for one year, and FWX was ordered to continue checking the home once a week.

"Unfortunately, she didn't heed the warnings," Morse said.

FWC officers were ordered by the judge to arrest her.

Musselman told officers she was afraid the bears wouldn’t survive the winter if she didn’t keep feeding them.

"She didn't want to accept that fact that they'd be fine without her ... they hibernate when there is no food," Morse said.

Her former student claims she wouldn’t have intentionally broken the law.

"This is out of her character to act as she did," Tedder said.

It is unclear what transpired regarding the battery on a law enforcement officer charge.

She is scheduled to appear again in court on March 3.

Sources: ABC Action News, WPTV