Initially, Smythe claimed to have witnessed a hit-and-run involving the bear but further investigation showed the bear had been shot.
Smythe, 42, was employed as a conservation law enforcement officer for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) from Dec. 12, 2003 to Sept. 10, 2007. He also worked part-time for the Wakulla Sheriff’s Department for an unspecified period beginning May 29, 2009, but a spokesperson for human resources said he has not been employed there for some time.
Smythe is president of a registered LLC, Clear Cut Solutions, that clears land and performs tree surgery.
On April 10 at 2:30 a.m.,
Schumacher said he saw a man he did not know with dark hair driving a white truck and a bear lying in the roadway. He said the man told him that somebody had hit a bear and fled the scene and that he had already called the police. The man told Schumacher to leave the area.
When police arrived at Palmetto Terrace they found fur, blood and feces on the road and garbage strewn around the area. Smythe arrive at the scene in his white truck about five minutes later.
“Someone ran over a bear and he ran away,” Smythe told Hogan. “I tried to track him but was unable to locate him.”
Hogan, Riley and Pace remained on the scene until FWC Lt. Charles Wood arrived.
Smythe told Wood a bear had been struck by a vehicle and later said he had struck the bear with his truck. He then declined to discuss the event further.
At about 4 a.m. Wood examined Smythe’s truck and photographed blood and fur on the undercarriage and in the bed.
Riley, Pace and Hogan searched for the bear and Riley discovered fresh tire tracks in a wooded area near Lanark. The bear was located about a mile and a half from Smythe’s home by following those tracks. Wood and FWC Officer Percy Cook recovered the bear from a ditch.
Ryan and Gina Irvin, who live next door to Smythe, reported hearing a gunshot, and a truck and four=wheeler cranking up during the night. Ryan Irvin also reported hearing a bear moaning. In all five witnesses reported hearing gunshots the night of the event.
Gina Irvin said Smythe had trouble with bears getting into his garbage.
A necropsy was performed on the 120-pound bear at the FWC Gainesville Research Lab and a bullet was recovered from the bear’s spine. Doctors concluded the bear could have died from bleeding from the gunshot wound, suffocation, or possible undetected injuries to the lungs. Injuries typically associated with bears hit by vehicles were not found on the Lanark bear.
DNA tied the blood on Smythe’s truck to the bear found in the ditch.
Although black bears were delisted as a species of special concern in August, Smythe was charged in the April incident with “taking of a threatened species,” a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
In addition, he is accused of tampering with evidence and giving a false report to a law enforcement officer. If convicted of killing the bear, Smythe could also lose his hunting and fishing licenses indefinitely in
Smythe was released after posting a $2,500 bond and is scheduled for arraignment Nov. 14.