Local News

Woman accused of feeding bears will be watched carefully

SEBRING - An order granting bail to a woman accused of illegally feeding bears requires her to be closely monitored.

Highlands County Judge Anthony Ritenour issued a ruling late Friday evening that Mary Musselman, who was charged with illegally feeding a bear, battery on a law enforcement officer and violation of probation, could be released on $7,000 bail.

As part of the release, Musselman has to allow the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office to make two unannounced visits a week to her home and search the property.

Her husband, William Musselman, and Clinton Manley, a neighbor, also have agreed to watch to make sure Mary Musselman complies with the order, and to report any violations.

After being released, the 81-year-old was required to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist and "follow through with any recommended treatment, including the taking of all prescribed medicines," the order states. "Any and all reports by the physician are to be forwarded to the court for review," it adds.

Musselman also cannot feed any wild animals.

"If the defendant has any pets, they are to be fed in a secured area, and immediately upon the conclusion of the animal's feeding, the food is to be put away," the report state.

The judge also required that all weapons in the house be kept in a safe, pending the resolution of the case.

In granting bail, Ritenour stated in his order that during the bail hearing Friday, she agreed not to feed bears and wasn't argumentative as during past proceedings.

The FWC had warned Musselman about feeding bears last year. When, after several warnings, the feeding continued, she was arrested.

A judge had placed her on a diversion program where her charges would have be dismissed if she had complied with the law. But the FWC found she continued to feed bears and she was placed on probation and ordered not to feed any wild animals for a year.

She continued to put food out, the FWC stated, which led to her arrest without bail.

William Musselman told the court his wife has health problems along with problems with her memory and that she has been feeding animals since she was a child.

His wife didn't intend to feed bears, he added, but the food she put out for other animals attracted the bears.

Florida law prohibits feeding bears because once they lose their fear of humans they become a threat and must be euthanized.


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