Site of bear escape
GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — People behaved normally Tuesday afternoon on 43rd Avenue Northeast, which was strange, considering there was a 125-pound grizzly bear cub said to be roaming the Golden Gate Estates neighborhood.
A man jogged up the street with headphones in his ears. A girl rode down the street on her bicycle. A group of teenagers shot hoops in their front yard.
Not a big deal, they insisted.
“There’s bears in the backyard all the time,” explained Jeff Williams, 4420 43rd Ave. N.E.
Officials said the cub escaped from its licensed owners, Dexter and Megan Osborn, at their Golden Gate Estates home at 4670 43rd Ave. N.E. around 11 a.m.
The Osborns, who tour the country with an educational bear show called “A Grizzly Experience,” own three grizzlies — an adult bear named Tonk and two cubs named Yogi and Booboo. Neighbors said they believed it was Booboo who bolted.
The Osborns’ tour with their bears four to six months of the year, appearing at festivals, county fairs and sport shows, according to their website. The grizzlies’ visited a science center in Alabama earlier this month, according to Mobile TV station Local 15.
The couple declined to speak to reporters Tuesday afternoon. Neighbor Jimmy Carter said he knew them to be “good people” and responsible bear owners, saying the grizzlies haven’t caused problems in the neighborhood.
“Not a lick,” he said.
It’s another area animal — a black bear who tears up trash — that gets his goat.
“I don’t worry about him,” Carter said of Booboo, or maybe Yogi. “It’s the other bear that bothers me.”
A team with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission expected it would be out all night or until it was able to capture the cub, said spokeswoman Carli Segleson. After the grizzly is located, investigators will work on determining how it escaped from its enclosure.
“Our primary concern is tracking down the bear,” she said.
All three of the Osborns’ bears are kept on a 2-acre habitat on the couple’s 8-acre ranch, according to the Grizzly Experience website. Although the couple has photos of the bears interacting with both children and adults, FWC officials warned residents not to approach the cub, particularly since grizzly bears are not native to Florida and might behave erratically.
“If you see the bear, please do not approach it,” FWC supervisor Capt. Mitts Mravic said. “Get indoors if you can, and call the FWC or local law enforcement.”
Even with the warning from FWC, Carter said he wasn’t going to worry about an unsupervised grizzly bear cub prowling his neck of the woods.
“Why?” said Carter, who has lived in the area since 1995. “We’ve got bears everywhere. Panthers, bears, cougars — all kinds of animals out here. I’ve got gators coming up to my door.
“We live in their area.”
Residents are advised to secure trash cans in their garage or enclosed area
Anyone who sees the cub is asked to contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 252-9300, or call the FWCC Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).