DESTIN, Fla. - Beachgoers got quite the surprise over the weekend when they spotted a black bear swimming at a crowded Florida beach.
Several witnesses saw the curious young bear taking a dip in Destin's beautiful blue Gulf of Mexico waters and captured the rare sighting on video, which quickly circulated on social media Sunday.
Steffani Saddler was one of those witnesses. She was returning from scuba diving when she encountered the bear appearing to be in his own world as he stayed afloat in the choppy waters.
"There's a bear in the water. How crazy," Saddler could be heard saying in a video she took of the cub. "I guess he's on vacation too," another person jokingly said.
"My reaction was definitely a bit of a shock because that was the last thing I expected to see swimming out there," Saddler told FOX 35 News.
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Captain Frank Merrell was on his way in from a dive trip when he said he spotted something black in the water. "My first thought was maybe a dog, but was in complete shock when I realized it was a bear," he said.
In other videos taken of the same bear, crowds could be seen watching the animal along the beach and they appeared to keep a close distance. Towards the end of one video, the bear seemed to have enough of the water and ran off in the sand past beach chairs and hopefully, back into the wild.
While black bears can be found almost anywhere in the Sunshine State, the Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) said they prefer a mixture of flatwoods, swamps, scrub oak ridges, bayheads and hammock habitats.
If you ever feel threatened by a bear; observe a sick, injured, dead or orphaned bear; or need to report someone who is either harming bears or intentionally feeding them, you're asked to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).