MACCLENNY, Fla. – Behind the safety of glass, a black bear at the Jacksonville Zoo may seem cute and cuddly. But a bear craving birthday cake and breaking into a kitchen, as was the case in Brandy Miller's experience, is a little scarier.
"I was scared to death, like seriously," said Miller, whose Macclenny home became the target of a black bear early Monday. "I mean, there was cake through the kitchen, so he was literally here for like 10 to 15 minutes probably."
Brandy woke up at about 2 a.m. Monday to the sight of the bear rummaging through her trash.
Aside from the half-eaten cake, the bear left its paw prints behind, evidence enough for wildlife officials to lure it in with a trail of cupcakes that they hope can fill its hankering for sugar.
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Neighbors say the bear is a repeat offender.
"He's been coming to get the trash every night, but we've been locking it in the shed," James Burton said.
Although the bear has been seen in the woods and in neighborhoods, it seems that no one has seen it around town.
Zookeepers say it's rare to see a bear unless it's in a cage, adding that it doesn't take a detective to figure out why a bear attracted to sweets would find its way to the source.
"If a cupcake was around, I'm sure TJ would woof it down in a second," Dan Dembiec, of the Jacksonville Zoo, said of the black bear at the zoo.
Because of the break in, wildlife officials are asking residents to be "bear aware." But some people don't want to crack down on bear crime.
"No, I'm not being bear aware," said Mike Mattis, who has never seen a bear in person.
A satellite is tracking the bear because it's part of a study. The bear was last tracked south of Interstate 10 between State Road 121 and County Road 228. And unless it hops a ride, it's expected to be caught soon.
Wildlife officials are residents who see a bear to stay calm and call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC.