A busy Florida beach had a strange and surprising creature wash up on its shore on Sunday – a young, small black bear.
“A bear just swam from way out in the ocean to shore in Destin,” one witness tweeted who took a now-viral video of the moment the animal arrived. “Insane.”
The witness, Chris Barron, said many beach-goers thought the animal was a dog when they first saw it out in the Gulf of Mexico. When it finally got to shore, Barron said it “took off into the sand dunes.”
“I think most people were shocked instead of being scared,” Barron told Storyful, adding that the bear had been swimming right next to his brother and 12-year-old son. “No one expected to see a bear in the Gulf of Mexico.”
CBS News has reached out to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for more information on this particular incident, but the department said a few weeks ago that it’s not uncommon to see young bears in “unexpected areas” this time of year.
“Juvenile black bears are starting to leave their mothers’ home ranges in search of new homes of their own,” the department said, adding that most of the venturing bears are between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years old.
Aside from the beach in Destin, young bears have also recently been spotted in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida Fish and Wildlife said. The animals aren’t naturally aggressive, but they could “become defensive” if they feel threatened, the department said, warning people not to disturb young bears or any other wild animal.
“The most important thing people can do to help these bears is to leave them alone,” Mike Orlando, FWC’s bear management program coordinator, said. “Give them plenty of space and let them move along on their own.”