81-Year-Old Jailed for Excessive Bear-Feeding

She feared they'd starve otherwise: officials
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 1, 2014 1:55 PM CST
An 81-year-old was sent to jail after she wouldn't stop feeding bears, police say.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – An 81-year-old woman is in prison without bond for feeding bears vast quantities of dog food—and refusing to stop, officials say. Mary Musselman, a retired gym teacher, allegedly fed bears when they visited her property in Sebring, Florida. "We are talking about putting out as many as 17 or 18 bowls of dog food," a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission rep tells WFTS. Apparently the bears were big fans: They kept returning, CNN reports.Officials, who last year had to euthanize a bear Musselman was feeding, told her she had to stop. "Feeding bears results in bears losing their fear of people," a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission rep tells WFTS.

But "she told us she wasn't going to stop." She reportedly kept feeding them despite repeated visits from wildlife officials carrying informational videos and brochures. Even a judge's warning wasn't enough to stop Musselman; apparently, she believed the bears would starve if she didn't feed them. Finally, officers arrived to arrest her—and she fought them, threatening to kill them, they say. She's charged with feeding wildlife, battery against an officer, and violating probation that had required her not to feed animals, per Highlands Today. Now her former students are coming to her aid, calling the arrest "outrageous" and looking for a mental health worker to join her in court. They say she needs to be released to continue to care for her husband, who has terminal cancer.

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