Walton County has now logged its first documented bear attack with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.
On Sept. 8 at approximately 9 p.m., Troy Roach's 9-year-old son Jackson told his father that he was going to take the dogs out for their nightly walk.
"He has done it alone before, so I almost said 'OK' and let him go," said Roach.
But at the last second, Roach decided to go with him.
Roach and Bella, their Boxer, went out the front door first with Jackson and their Maltese not far behind.
As he stepped off the porch of the house in Forest Lakes subdivision, Roach heard some rustling in the wooded area across the street. But it was dark out and he couldn't see anything until out of the night came a "humongous" black bear charging toward him and Bella.
"She came for the dog, so I got between them and she swiped my back, knocking me down," said Roach.
As the dog and bear tussled, Roach ran back in the house and grabbed a pellet gun and shot the bear.
"She stumbled but drug Bella off into the woods," Roach said. "As I turned to tell Jackson to get back inside, Bella came streaking out of the woods from across the street with the bear behind her. I opened the door and Bella and I went inside."
The bear then proceeded to come up as far as the porch's fourth step before retreating.
Roach called the Walton County Sheriff's Office, which responded along with a Florida Fish & Wildlife agent.
The deputy who responded saw two bear cubs wandering around and the FWC agent saw the mother bear walking down the street. She had knocked over a neighbor's trash can and drug it into the woods.
The agent estimated the bear to be a full-grown adult female weighing between 300 and 400 pounds and concluded that Roach must have gotten between the mother and her cubs.
As for Bella, her veterinarian Dr. Tonia Shatzel said that although she has six or seven puncture wounds in her legs from the bear's teeth, she would be fine.
"We were unbelievably lucky," said Roach. "She charged us and we barely had time to react."
Bekah Nelson, FWC's regional public information director, said they conducted trapping efforts in the vicinity of the incident Friday night through Sunday afternoon in an attempt to capture the bear but did not observe any activity in the traps. Due to safety concerns from the approaching storm, the traps were removed Sunday evening.
"We are thankful that both the man and his dog are OK," Nelson said. "We take this incident and all human-bear conflicts very seriously."