A neighborhood in the Egypt Lake area of Tampa woke up to a wild scene Friday: a 300-pound black bear climbed up into a tree and stayed there until it was tranquilized by wildlife officials.
Eloy Perez, 70, said he came face-to-face with the bear in the backyard of his home on West Broad Street shortly after letting his dog out at around 7 a.m.
"We opened the back door. When the bear saw us, it ran up into the tree," Perez told us. "I mean he ran up the tree like a squirrel."
The bear spent several hours calmly resting on a branch about 20 feet off the ground until he was tranquilized just after 10 a.m. He slowly grew drowsy and then slipped off the branch; he eventually recovered and late in the day was released into Ocala National Forest.
Wildlife officials said the bear had a red tag in its ear that was placed there after the animal was caught in downtown Orlando last year. It had been spotted several times during the last two weeks by neighbors in Citrus County, Spring Hill and Lutz.
"Bears are generally not a threat to people and the example is that this bear went right up a tree," said Gary Morse, with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Perez called the ordeal "unbelievable."
"I was kind of in shock. I couldn't believe it," he said.
Last July another bear was caught near Busch Gardens. He was eventually relocated to the Ocala National Forest.