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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Black Bear Surprises Early-Morning Walkers on Lake Wailes Trail

Bear Cowered in Oak Tree Near Boat Ramp


Last updated 6/11/2023 at 12:31pm

Gabe Spuckes

A bear, estimated by witnesses to weigh as much as 300 pounds, was found hiding in an oak tree near the Lake Wailes boat launch ramp early Thursday morning .

An endangered Florida Black Bear was spotted perched high in an oak tree by walkers using the popular Lake Wailes Trail Thursday morning. The bear was sitting on a high branch, and apparently hoping to avoid being noticed.

"It's big, it's a full-adult bear," said walker Robert Mills, who uses the trail daily and was surprised to see it.

After the Lake Wales Police Department was notified they quickly called the Florida Game and Fish Conservation Commission, and officers were determining whether the bear could be relocated.

Robert Mills

The obviously-frightened bear, unused to being the center of attention, was left hiding after sunrise.

According to witnesses, a Lake Wales city official reported that Florida GFC told police to leave the bear alone, and that no effort would be made to remove it. There are several populations of black bears in Florida, with one concentrated in Highlands County being the closest to Lake Wales. Bears often migrate great distances, covering 20 miles in a single night with ease. Such migrations are essential for them to find mates and share genetics to avoid inbreeding.

The bear was reportedly "tired and agitated," and should be left alone. It will eventually "go on its merry way," according to reports.

A bear was spotted behind the Lake Wales Plaza shopping center several years ago by Lake Wales Police, who left it alone. Unfortunately what was suspected to be the same bear was killed by a trigger-happy police officer in Bartow the following night.

According to Lake Wales Police, the bear has since escaped into a wooded area overnight.


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