Nine people were arrested for animal cruelty after investigators said Wednesday they had illegally used pastries and other foods to lure Florida black bears that were then attacked, chased and killed by packs of dogs.
Some states allow bear hunting, but Florida prohibits anyone from taking, pursuing, molesting, capturing, hunting, injuring or killing black bears, reports WKMG. Investigators believe the dogs were being trained to hunt black bears before being sold to hunters in states where the practice is allowed.
"This is not hunting. This is not sport," said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. "This is cruelty to animals."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began investigating in January 2018 after videos on social media showed black bears being attacked by packs of dogs.
Investigators said Haley Reddish, 25, posted several videos to Instagram showing the attacks. One video reportedly showed a hunting dog attacking a bear with the caption, "Boss actually had the bear caught by the face, the bear didn't have him caught! LOL."
Another video showed a bear clinging to the top of a tree as a pack of dogs barked below, investigators said. Someone could then reportedly be heard beating a stick against the tree, causing the bear to jump to the ground where it was attacked by the dogs. That video had the caption, "This bear thought he could fly."
Both videos were believed to have been recorded in the Ocala National Forest based on unique foliage seen in the footage.
Investigators obtained a warrant to place a GPS tracker on the truck of Haley's husband, 25-year-old Dustin Reddish. The vehicle tracker showed him traveling to the Ocala National Forest on the morning of February 11, according to investigators. When they later checked the locations he had visited, they said they found donuts, corn, dog food and peanut butter used to bait the bears.
Over the next few months, investigators monitored social media, tracked Dustin Reddish's vehicle, and placed hidden cameras in the woods. One day in May 2018, Reddish's truck was monitored traveling to a Krispy Kreme donut shop in Jacksonville, investigators said. He was seen on surveillance video removing discarded pastries from the dumpster with two other men identified as 30-year-old Charles Scarbrough and 26-year-old Mark Lindsay, according to court records.
Five other people were spotted taking part in the illegal activities by hidden cameras in the woods: William Wood, 29; Hannah Scarbrough, 27; Christopher Haun, 42; William Landrum, 39; and Troy Starling, 45.
In June, investigators said they spotted Haun's vehicle on surveillance video near a bait site in Volusia County. They said they went to the location and found a dead bear floating in the water that had a hole in its neck consistent with a rifle bullet.
In September, investigators went to a bait site in Union County where they found bones of a bear and a spent .44 caliber firearm cartridge, according to court records.
The charges against the group include felonies and misdemeanors for animal cruelty, illegal taking and baiting of black bears, and Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act violations, reports the Tampa Bay Times. These charges could lead to up to 30 years in prison for each person and five years for each misdemeanor charge.