When you think of Florida wildlife, what comes to mind?
Graceful dolphins? Adorable manatees? Menacing alligators? If you're a big-cat fan, perhaps the endangered Florida panther is high on the list.
Well, Mother Nature recently provided a reminder about another species that calls Florida home: Black bears.
"I've lived here my whole life and have never seen anything like that before," Steffani Saddler, a Florida resident, told CNN.
TikTok user Marlee Breland posted a clip of the shocking moment when the bear appeared in the water: Watch it here.
As a Coloradan who's encountered more than one bear in my life, I am also totally dumbstruck.
Apparently, though, we shouldn't be that surprised. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state is home to several populations of bears, from the western panhandle region (where Destin is located) to Miami.
"During this time of year, juvenile bears such as the one seen in Destin are starting to leave their mother's home range and may be seen in unexpected areas as they try to find a new home," a FFWCC spokesperson told CBS News.
Believe it or not, the sparkling Gulf of Mexico waters are known for their bear activity.
"While it is unusual to to see a bear swimming in the shallows of a crowded beach, it isn't unusual to hear of black bears swimming in the Gulf, on their way back to barrier islands in search of food," said the FFWCC spokesperson.
Just like in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Florida folks who encounter a bear are told to give the creature a wide berth and to secure any food waste that could attract bears to human-occupied areas.
Plus, as Florida resident Saddler joked to CNN, a lone bear might just be looking for relaxation.
"I guess he's on vacation, too," she said.
We get it, Surprise Florida Gulf Coast Swimming Bear.
This story was originally published by Kathleen St. John at Simplemost.