There are no lions or tigers in Destin, but when it comes to bears, oh my!
While a majority of the sightings have been from afar, Fort Walton Beach resident Cleo Peavant was greeted up close and personal by what's thought to be a "sub-adult" male bear.
"I was walking in the parking lot and the bear was coming up on me," Peavant told The Log. "It chased me around the parking lot in front of Little Ceasars then I jumped on someone's truck."
To see an interactive map of where the bear was spotted in Destin, CLICK HERE.
Peavant said the bear had to have been "well over 300 pounds" based on his encounter. "I am 6'5" and it was a pretty big bear."
Preston Green, who works at Another Broken Egg Cafe, recalled his experience with the bear Wednesday morning.
"One of my employees came running in the office saying 'there's a bear in our parking lot and a guy is running from it,' " he told The Log. "So we bolted out the back door to see if everything was OK and we could no longer see the bear, however we had several customers in the their vehicles chasing after the bear."
Green said he has never seen a bear in Destin before, but imagined that all he wanted was some breakfast. After the sighting, Green said the bear ran toward Walgreens.
Bear-related calls to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began coming in Tuesday night and continued through Wednesday, as sightings were reported all over Destin.
Pictures of the bear were captured in the Twin Lakes subdivision along Airport Road, behind Target and Winn Dixie, in the parking lot at Old Time Pottery, at the Marbella Condominium on the south side of U.S. Hwy. 98, as well as at Big Kahuna's and along Indian Bayou.
Lee Lane resident Trista Barton captured a shot of the bear in her front yard and told The Log that she and her husband ran inside to quickly grab their camera.
"By that time it was climbing our fence and running across the street to our neighbor's yard," she wrote on The Log's Facebook page. "We got a quick pic then it disappeared... can't believe I saw a black bear in Destin."
The black bear is the only species of bear found in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. It's estimated that there are between 2,500 and 3,000 black bears in the state.
Despite the bear popping up in photos throughout the day on Facebook, FWC Spokesman Stan Kirkland told The Log his agency had received only a handful of calls from Destin. FWC officials had last spotted the bear early Wednesday morning when it was seen entering a wooded area.
"There is no real reason to try and trap this bear," Kirkland said, adding that if there was no obvious way for the bear to get back to its natural habitat, then officials would consider trapping the bear for relocation purposes.
While some speculated that there may be more than one bear at large, Kirkland said he believes it is a single bear that was haunting the area the day before Halloween.
This time of year, Kirkland said, it's not uncommon for sightings of "sub-adult" males to increase, as they are kicked out of their groups and "left to find their place in the world."
As for bear sightings in Destin, Kirkland said they are rare. He said this particular black bear more than likely came from Walton County's Point Washington State Forest. It's known that there are "multiple bears" known to habitat the area between Point Washington and Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast.
If Destin residents spot a bear, Kirkland said the best thing for them to do is make loud noises and make the animal feel "unwelcome," whether it's with their car horn, a whistle or an air horn. He also suggested that people secure their garbage in a location that isn't easy for a bear to access.
"We're hoping the people of Destin put out their unwelcome sign and he goes back to where he came from," Kirkland said.