A pair of Kodiak Bears unique to a remote area of Alaska were found wandering the Florida Panhandle and the encounter became even stranger when they tried to play games with the responding sheriff’s deputy.
The discovery was made at 3:30 a.m. early in December by a man driving through rural Okaloosa County, and he immediately knew the cubs were not black bears native to Florida.
Not only did they look weird, but they also acted differently.
Deputy Amanda Baliel found out the hard way, when she arrived to find overly friendly bears following her like lost toddlers and trying to get into her patrol car.
“I feel claws. I don’t like claws. No claws,” Baliel says in the video, only to see the bears focus their attention on his car.
“Please don’t destroy my car.” They climb on my car. …It’s like they’re not afraid of people, because they walk right up to you and they let you pet them. They are very curious.
Baliel eventually got back into her car, partly because she feared the mother bear was hiding nearby in the dark.
The encounter took place Dec. 5, but the sheriff’s office didn’t share news of the discovery until Jan. 31, after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission completed an investigation.
“These cubs were technically approximately 3,614 miles from what would normally be their ‘home’ in Alaska,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post. “They are apparently Kodiak bear cubs, a unique subspecies of brown or grizzly bears.”
FWC officers arrived to take the cubs to “a safe location” while investigators tried to figure out how they ended up on the loose near the small town of Baker.
“It was determined that the bears had escaped from an inadequate enclosure at a residence on Old River Road where a self-proclaimed bear handler lives,” the sheriff’s office reported.
“The resident faces various Florida Wildlife violations related to the findings of the FWC investigation.”
McClatchy News contacted the FWC on Jan. 31 for details about the charges and the cubs’ fate, and was awaiting a response.
Kodiak bears found »exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago,” according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“Kodiak bears are the largest bears in the world. A large male can measure more than 10 (feet) tall when on his hind legs and 5 (feet) when on all four legs. They weigh up to 1,500 pounds.
Baker is about 50 miles northeast of Pensacola.