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SYFY WIRE Cocaine Bear

Cocaine Bear Meets Jaws? Nope, Just a Bear Happily Swimming in the Gulf of Mexico on a Crowded Beach

Sunbathers chilling on the Florida coast got a furry weekend surprise.

By Benjamin Bullard
Cocaine Bear Trailer

Maybe the ursine terror from Cocaine Bear (streaming here at Peacock) isn’t the only one of its species that likes a good party. Weekend sunbathers along the Florida panhandle got an up-close look at just how beguiled by recreation Cocaine Bear’s real-life four-pawed brethren actually are, with dramatic video emerging over the weekend that shows a furry four-legged fella swimming solo amid a crowd of sun worshippers along a Pensacola-area beach.

Seemingly unbothered and definitely in his weekend R&R lane, a solitary black bear was spotted swimming Sunday (June 11) in the Gulf of Mexico just offshore along a populated stretch of beach in Destin, Florida. The party animal wasn’t way out to sea, either: As phone footage captured by a pair of quick-witted passersby shows, it was right there in thick of things, drawing gasps from the throng of beachgoers who probably hadn’t planned on vying for shoreline real estate with a creature better known for hanging out mainly in the woods.

Not Cocaine Bear: Watch this black bear chill out on a Florida beach

Footage of the frolicking fella quickly shot across social media, as Twitter user @cbcpa79 and beachgoer Frank Merrell (via area TV station WMBB) shared video of their close, but thankfully harmless, bear encounter.

Pretty freaky, right? Unlike Cocaine Bear, whose anti-hero creature haplessly came across a sack of party powder that altered its animal behavior, this real-life bear was apparently just doin’ what bears instinctively like to do. According to locals, hitting the waves for a little lighthearted splash time isn’t uncommon among American black bears that dwell in areas of the country with nearby access to primo saltwater spots.

“It’s not uncommon,” Destin-based charter boat captain Chris Kirby explained to “There are a lot of bears at Eglin Air Force Base [which lies east of Pensacola near Destin]. They swim across the bay. Sometimes they go for a joy swim.”

“At first no one on shore could tell what it was in the ocean,” vacationer Jennifer Majors Smith, in the area from Nashville, told “A man was yelling out ‘Bear!’ You would expect ‘shark or dolphin’ but not bear. It came out of the Gulf and looked tired but relieved. Of course, my animal loving son started following it, so my mother-in-law grabbed him. We were all shocked by and amazed to see what we saw. We were all glad to see him safe from the water. We all enjoy a dip in the water, but who knows how long he was in there.”

After bobbing around for a bit, the black bear evidently decided it was time to dry off, hitting the sand and bolting through a crowd of amazed sunbathers before (presumably) heading back to more conventional bear haunts. All in all, it ended up as just another safe and sunny day on a Florida beach — with no illicit party favors involved.

Feel like bumping up the black bear scare-o-meter? Cocaine Bear (plus the amazing documentary chronicling the story of its true-life counterpart) is streaming now at Peacock.