A small bear hanging over a tiger cage has commanded a lion’s share of attention at an Apopka wildlife facility since Saturday evening.
The 50-pound bear was first discovered in an oak tree at the CARE Foundation by a caretaker who noticed a 300-pound caged tiger gazing hungrily at the limbs above her enclosure.
The tiger was “definitely interested” in the bear in the branches, said Christin Burford, founder of the nonprofit exotic animal rescue on West Ponkan Road.
The bear was likely petrified, said Mike Orlando, a wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Florida black bears often resort to flight and not fight when faced with conflict, though they’re Florida’s largest native land mammals and can turn beastly to protect cubs.
“Bears get chased up trees by Chihuahuas all the time,” Orlando said.
From his perch, the little bear can see two tigers below, 300-pound Daenerys and 400-pound Tyrion, both named for characters in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
Orlando said the bear could climb down safely but may have decided the metal tiger enclosures are an unreliable network of vines not likely to hold back the big striped cats.
Burford said the curious yearling may have climbed over a back fence onto the 10-acre foundation property Saturday — then soon regretted trespassing.
The foundation’s menagerie includes 200 animals, many of which had been somebody’s exotic pet, including monkeys, panthers and snakes.
Wildlife officials have decided to practice patience, believing the little bear will climb down when it feels safe or hungry enough.
But Orlando noted a bear may go long stretches without eating and drinking, especially during winter hibernation when the animal’s metabolic rate slows and its temperature drops.
He said the agency doesn’t plan to tranquilize the little bear.
Burford said foundation staff may move the tigers out of view Wednesday to see if the bear will be brave enough “to go for it.”
(Neither FWC nor Burford are certain if the bear is a male or female.)
Meanwhile the stranded bruin has drawn lots of media attention, including a news helicopter.
Burford said she called the news outlet and asked them to please leave because the chopper was stressing the animals.
The foundation is familiar with bear care.
In 2013, the CARE Foundation provided a temporary home in 2013 for a female bear and two cubs captured after the mama bear mauled a woman walking two small dogs in Longwood.
Burford said the foundation also cared for Quinn, a 425-pound bear rescued from a roadside exhibit, and now cares for Lola, a bear that had been trained to performed on TV.
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