Buzzard Wild Fire in Turner River and Corndance  Unit of Big Cypress Swamp
Story of Hungry Bear chased by Wild Fire for Weeks


 Saturday night a little before midnight, I was awakened by the sound of crunch, crunch, crunch. The moon had not come up yet and it was very dark. I put my little flashlight against the window screen and turned it on. I knew a bag of corn was in the wheel barrel in the first buggy stall, about 50 feet away, but behind outdoor grills. while the flashlight was not real bright, I could not see anything big, so I thought maybe a racoon had found the corn. Not wanting have the corn eaten up, I decided to go out and chase it away. Because it was hot, I only had on my underwear, not a pretty sight. I got up and slipped on my bedroom slippers and opened the door.

As I headed over to the buggy stall, I turned on the flashlight and shined it over where I was going. I got about 10 or 15 feet from the door, when two eyes about 8 inches apart and about my shoulder height appeared in the buggy stall. I could faintly see a 200 pound plus bear, with its hind legs on the ground and its front legs on the wheel barrow, staring right at me. Now  I know you are not to run from a bear, but I was betting that I could go 15 feet before the bear could go 50 feet. I'll never know if I was right, because as I slammed the door behind me, I heard crunch, crunch, crunch. This hungry bear was not leaving the corn. In retro spec it seems silly to jump in the building thinking I'm now safe, when really all that is between me and the bear is a 4 foot by 4 foot aluminum window screen, times 4 window screen openings. The bear could go through that, not even knowing it was there.

So, now what to do? I can't go back to sleep with a bear 50 feet away, especially going crunch, crunch, crunch. Now I remember my shot gun is in my clothes cabinet, so I will just put a shell in it, step out the door and fire it in the bears general direction. He hears that shot gun go off, He is out of there. I only have turkey shot, so that's not much help if he charges me, but now I have a plan. I load the shot gun and open the door, The door opening is to my right, so I will fire the gun left handed. Awkward, but a few seconds of fumbling around and holding the gun about waist high, I managed to fire it. Boom!!!! The shot gun butt hit the door and threw it wide open, but I managed to hang on to the gun, I jumped back in the door and after my ears cleared up, all I could hear is crunch, crunch, crunch.

Now people that  know Florida black bears, know they almost always run off at the sight of a person and certainly if a person is shooting at them, they are leaving. So now this is really disconcerting. As I hear crunch, crunch, crunch, now what should I do?  I think, I could slip out side and close the 3 shutters and the bear can't get in side. I don't want to be a Darwin candidate, so that plan is nixed. I could slip out side and go 100 feet to the generator, start it and the lights would scare the bear away. I know I can not run a 100 feet back to the building faster then a bear can run 50 feet. That Darwin candidate thing came to mind again. I'm thinking when 110 square miles has burned and the fire has pushed this bear for weeks, he is just too hungry to be driven off. So now I'm thinking maybe I don't need that corn so much any more and after the bear is full, it will just leave. So I loaded the shot gun with three shells, still turkey shot, so not effective until I can almost touch the bear with the end of the barrel and lean it against the cabinet. I also have a three year old can of bear spray, I take it out of the holster and look at it to be sure I know how to get the safety off. I lay down in the bed, staring wide eyed in the direction of the buggy stall. Still pitch black outside, but I can hear crunch, crunch, crunch and I know where the bear is.

Now about 1:30 the moon is starting to come up on the horizon, starting to get a little light. The sky is overcast so the moon is not getting much light through and it is kind of a reddish light and I still can not see that bear. I'm sure I have closed my eyes a few thing during that time, but as long as I could hear crunch, crunch, crunch, I knew I was Ok. The crunch, crunch, crunch stopped and my eyes flew wide open. I could faintly see the bear by the out door grills, about 40 feet away, facing the building. Now I am wide awake! The bear kind of fades from sight and I hear crunch, crunch, crunch, so I relax again and put the bear spray down. The bear must be getting full or the corn is running out, can't tell in the dark. The moon is getting higher and more light is outside. The crunch, crunch, crunch stops again, but I don't see any bear. I wait and wait and after awhile I'm pretty sure it left. The moon is now bright enough to see pretty well, but no bear to be seen.

I fell asleep and the morning sun woke me up.

A few times I referred to the bear as He. Some of you may have wondered how I knew it was not a She. It turns out that I had thrown some corn out at the feeder in the early afternoon. When I got home from camp and reviewed the game camera, the (He) bear had spend from about 9 pm to 11 pm that night finding all the kernels of corn out at the feeder. The bear was over 200 pounds, but also there did not seem to be any fat on the bear, pretty lean looking. This was the second time that after a big fire, the animals are very hungry. Last year after the Mudlake fire the feeder was crowded with animals, almost fighting to get the corn. Now after this Buzzard fire, this bear was not acting natural, I suppose driven by hunger.

story by Steve November 2018