The appearance of a Florida black bear in the middle of the city in Tampa surprised those who saw him first and the gawkers who came along next, but experts with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say it's not so unexpected.
The 275-pound animal apparently followed a corridor of natural habitat that dead ends right in the city, putting him on the USF campus.
"It was just at a full run, running through this parking lot heading straight out towards the woods and it ran right across the road," recounted Scott Alvarez, the USF maintenance employee who first spotted the bear early Tuesday morning.
There's history with this bear. Wildlife officials have been tracking him for the past year. The trouble is, he's looking for love in all the wrong places.
At about one and a half years of age, black bears leave their mothers in search of a mate. The bear originally started showing up in neighborhoods in Sanibel Island in Lee County. FWC relocated him to the Chassahowitzka Swamp in Hernando County two weeks ago.
They hoped he would move north to find his mate, into better bear habitat.
But instead, he moved the opposite direction, away from the state's bear populations. After leaving USF, he wandered to Busch Gardens of all places, where he was tranquilized and captured yet again. No harm. No foul.
"Florida black bears are not known to be aggressive or violent. Very few attacks on record," said FWC Wildlife Biologist Chad Allison. "We don't get overly concerned. We just want to get it removed and get it out of its unnatural habitat."
Biologists have released the bear again: this time, into Apalachicola National Forest in the Panhandle. Hopefully, he'll find love there.
It's ironic the bear ended up at Busch Gardens, but FWC doesn't think anything at the park attracted him. There are no black bears at Busch Gardens, but there are a lot of other types of wildlife.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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