LONGWOOD, Fla. – A Longwood resident is warning people to lock their vehicle doors after, she said, a bear got into her father's SUV and became trapped inside.
Rikki Koberg-Perrero said she heard a loud banging outside, looked and saw two bears near her garage and one trapped inside her father's SUV.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said they believe this is the same adult female bear, with two yearling cubs, that recently attacked two dogs, killing one of them, in the Longwood Springs Boulevard area.
Koberg-Perrero said she watched the bear thrashing around in the car for at least 30 minutes. When deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials arrived, they opened the door to the SUV and the bear left.
"(I) never would have imagined bears could trap themselves in a vehicle," Koberg-Perrero said. "Thank goodness no one was hurt."
She said the SUV sustained a significant amount of damage.
"I have a 5- and a 7-year-old, so they were here and witnessing what was going on," Koberg said.
Koberg said it isn't unusual to see bears in her Longwood neighborhood, but she never thought a bear could do this much damage. She's hoping more can be done to keep her children and family safe.
Koberg said her family has car insurance.
"The FWC takes this situation seriously and is using all available resources to trap the bear," FWC spokesman Greg Workman said. "FWC staff have been canvassing the area, talking to residents and placing signs alerting residents to BearWise practices."
Workman said that, until the bear is trapped, he encourages residents to follow BearWise practices by keeping their pets indoors, locking vehicles and being aware of their surroundings when outside.
Residents should also secure any food that may attract bears -- such as garbage, pet food and bird seed -- and keep garage doors closed, Workman said.
Anyone who sees a bear is encouraged to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.