Up close encounter provides memorable Father's Day moment
It was a Kodak moment -- a father and his young son in a boat fishing in Pensacola Bay on Father's Day.
Then about 11 a.m. their quiet morning on the water turned into an adventure the Gulf Breeze dad and his 10-year-old son won't soon forget.
Mike Baggett, 40, spotted something in the water and decided to get a closer look. At first, he thought he was seeing a log floating or dog paddling in the water.
"I freaked out when I found it was a bear," said Baggett's son, Hank. "I didn't think it was a bear at first. I've seen bears at the zoo ... not that close."
The pair got as close as 2 to 3 feet in their boat from the bear. That's when Baggett grabbed his cell phone and started taking pictures of the bear.
Baggett said he alerted another father and son about the bear, and they got a closer look, too.
He also dialed 911.
The bear continued to swim toward shore as Baggett and his son followed, snapping more pictures.
When the bear made it to shore, it took a look back at Baggett and Hank and started shaking its wet body, Baggett said.
The bear then started to run, disappearing as it headed toward the Peake's Point subdivision.
"He just took off," Baggett said. "He just leapt over a seawall."
The sighting alarmed Susan Finger, 44, who lives in Peake's Point.
"Oh, my God," she said. "That's freaky. We do see a lot of footprints. You go, 'I wonder what that was?' "
Bear sightings are not uncommon in Florida. About 5,900 bear sightings have been reported statewide the past three years, said Stan Kirkland, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Reports of swimming bears are much less common, Kirkland said.