What do you do when you see a 375-pound black bear take a leap into the Gulf of Mexico? If you are Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologist Adam Warwick, you heroically dive into the ocean without hesitation to rescue the six-and-a-half-foot tall animal, thinking more of saving a bruin in peril than about potential injury from razor-sharp claws or fierce teeth.
After wandering into a residential neighborhood near Alligator Point, approximately 40 miles south of Tallahassee, Fla., the bear was hit with a tranquilizer dart so that it could be safely removed. However, before the disoriented behemoth could be captured, it did something totally unexpected — it jumped into the Gulf of Mexico and started to make the four-mile swim across the harbor.
Warwick said that, at one point, “the bear reared up on his hind legs in the water.” Then, instead of lunging forward, the animal fell backwards. The bear went underwater for a few seconds, and that’s when Warwick realized he had to take immediate action in order to save the animal from drowning. The Florida biologist didn’t waste time as he stripped off his shirt and dove into the Gulf for the black bear rescue.
According to FWC officials, “Warwick kept one arm underneath the bear and the other gripping the scruff of its neck to keep the bear’s head above water. Warwick said he walked barefoot over concrete blocks crusted with barnacles in the 4-foot-deep water as he tried to guide and use the water to help float the bear back to shore.”
Warwick commented that, “The scariest part was probably when he decided — he started looking at me as if he wanted to climb up on me to keep from drowning…”
As he recounted the story to CBS co-anchor Maggie Rodriquez, Warwick said that he was more concerned about getting stung by a stingray as he carried the bear across the muddy floor of the harbor than he was about being injured by the animal. “I’ve got a few cuts on my feet from the claws and barnacles, but other than that, I’m doing good,” he stated following the dramatic rescue.
Once Warwick was able to get the bear back safely back to land, a local backhoe operator arrived at the scene to help secure the animal onto a truck for relocation to Osceola National Forest near Lake City, Fla.
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