By Charles Towne

Black bears can be capricious, and they can be playful, as well as adorably cute when they are cubs. They can appear clumsy, clownish, but never dull.

As they age they tend to lose that early playfulness for the most part, but I have seen fully grown adult bears of both sexes play with other bears.

Once I saw a big male playing with of all things, a turtle. (I am certain the turtle was an unwilling participant of the game.)  The bear was slapping the turtle around something fierce. The turtle would roll several feet and the bear would chase it, pouncing on it, grabbing it in both front paws, clutching it to him chest, he would then mouth it, slobbering and drooling on the poor turtle as if he were trying to turn it into a big turtle spit-ball.

The turtle was slapped again to go rolling a score of paces only to be pounced on again.  The reptile, a gopher tortoise common to Florida, was next clutched tightly to bruin’s chest, the bear rolled onto his back, juggling the toy, and then there was some more mouthing and slobbering.

At any time the bear could have closed powerful jaws on his unwilling toy, killing it, but it was obvious that was not his intent.

The worst possible thing that could have happened to that poor turtle was he could possibly drown in all of that foamy bear slobber.  

Finally the bear dropped the turtle and walked off swinging his big behind in the humorous way of his kind.

Another time I watched a large male sitting on the bank of the Wekiva River.

The Wekiva is not a long river as rivers go, spring fed and crystal clear for much of its 27-mile length, it is bordered by prime wildlife habitat.

Here roams the whitetail deer, as well as bobcat, otter and the coyote, and that true symbol of the wild places, our friend, the black bear.

I was paddling my canoe down the river when I spied a large bear sitting on its broad rump on the bank of the river.  At first I was puzzled. 

What in the wide, wild world was the creature doing? 

Then it struck me, the bear seemed to be enjoying the sunset.  

Silently I let the canoe drift to within twenty feet of the bear where it silently washed up against a large raft of water hyacinth and stopped.

The bear, sitting there swaying forward and backward, was unaware of me, and not wanting to break the spell of the moment I sat still and watched, listening to the water murmur under the canoe.   

Truly it was one of those magical moments that you will learn to look forward to if you spend enough time in the wild places.

Then it was that I heard something else.  At first I was uncertain as to just what I was hearing, a low murmuring; moaning sound.   

when I realized what was making the sound I was almost shocked, for that bear was crooning, enjoying the sunset as much as I was.  I sat there until the sunset was almost gone. Shadows crept over the bear, and then he too was gone.

I have watched Old Blackie play with a twig in the water. I have seen and filmed a large male black bear push and pull at a log, lifting it, for no more reason than it was there, and needed to be pushed and pulled and lifted.

I have watched adults go into mock wrestling bouts, only to break off the contest after a short time, to go their separate ways.

One time I was hiking way back in the forest.  I had stopped to take a drink from my canteen when I heard something that puzzled me no end.

A crashing and rattling held my attention and it was obvious that whatever was making the noise was coming in my direction.  

Whatever was making the racket was not at all concerned about the noise it was making. I mean, Attila the Hun and his hordes couldn’t have made more of a racket!

Then, not far from me I saw a bear, or I should say, I saw the rear end of a large bear and I was puzzled to see that the bruin was dragging a large piece of greenhouse shade cloth.  Blackie would slap at the shade cloth and then roll on it until tiring of the game it abandoned its toy to wander off to more important things. 

After witnessing these periods of whimsy, I can only conclude that though bears spend much time alone, there are those times they certainly like to play, and they enjoy the occasional company of another bear.

An Outdoorsman’s Prayer

Thank you Lord God for being!  Thank you Father for revealing yourself to me as my forever friend, the one and only God in who I can place my trust completely and unequivocally, for I know that you never deceive, nor do you lie.  Walk with me this day, protect me from all deception. In Jesus’ Holy name I ask it. Amen.

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. What a delightful story! Those large creatures certainly enjoy themselves when they are in a playful mood. At those times, it seems they don’t have a care in the world and maybe they don’t.
    I would like to have more moments to enjoy like that and it’s
    up to me to make it happen.
    Thank you, Lord, for the simple things in life that are pure enjoyment. God bless you, Chuck!

  2. Thank you for this playful story. I Love bears and all of the indigenous creatures Florida has to offer. Very enjoyable read to start the day….

  3. Dear CSG, It takes a special degree of intelligence only to be found in higher life forms for a playful spirit to be evident. Our Papa God must have taken great joy as He created the ability to enjoy life in His creatures. This is evidence enough for me to realize intelligent design at work. We are able to see this at work in our pets such as dogs and cats. Bless you dear friend, Chaz

  4. Dear NH, Oh how I love Papa God! He is so good, so generous in his love for His children. May He pour out His great love ON YOU AND YOURS!!! Chaz

  5. Dear Mr. Towne, what a great honor you have had in a long life spent enjoying the grand creative genius of our loving God. What I don’t quite grasp is why more people are unable to see all life in the light that you portray it. A friend

  6. Dear friend, I appreciate your comment more than I can express. Usually another soul sets us on our predetermined course and in my case it was my parents. I thank my mother and father fo instilling in me an appreciation for the wild places and the denizens that dwell therein. I count myself very blessed in the sense that I have been able tto pass my love for nature on to my children. May you also be muchly blessed, Chaz

  7. I love your nature stories. It is interesting to think about what animals, especially big ones like bears, do in their free time. What an adventure it must be to be such a creature. God only knows. 🙂 I do feel a tad sorry for the turtle. But, like you said, he/she was fortunate to have remained alive. 🙂

  8. Ahh, my dear friend Kristin, you are so kind. I look forward to the time when I can share future knowledge and experiences with my friends. Can you imagine what the future will be like when we can travel to other planets to study new species? Hey, everybody knows that I have a pretty good imagination!. Blessings on you dear heart, Chaz

  9. Well EJ, that is a good, thought provoking question, one that deserves a good, thought provoking answer. When you ask, “How dangerous are these bears?” the same question must be asked of so many varied and diverse things, some animate, and some static, or inanimate. Take automobiles for example, or fireworks, or dogs? And yet we don’t hear people shouting about the dangers of rottweilers, dobermans, or pit bulls, and yet these three breeds of man’s best friend account for an unbelievable number of injuries and even deaths, far above all the injuries and deaths caused by all the diverse species of bears combined world wide.
    The chance of you being attacked by a bear is miniscule when compared to such activities as hiking in the Grand canyon, and yet, since records have been kept, there have been hundreds of people that have died by falling or jumping to their deaths in that canyon called “Grand.” Death by bear is spectacular, therefore it is newsworthy. A few years ago Little Timmy Treadwell took chances with the big bears and ended up being killed and eaten. (You might say his death was suicide by bear) Not only that but he was directly responsible for the death of his girl friend in the same incident, so to answer your question I have to say one thing, anything with sharp and pointy teeth and claws is dangerous. As a past zoo director I have been folded, spindled and mutilated by all sort of critters, but every incident was my fault. Well, enough of that for now, you have a good day ya hear, Chaz

  10. I just got home and loved the story. I guess black bears are somewhat like people who although serious most of the time love to play and if they are smart, enjoy sunsets.

  11. Yes Herb, it has been proven many times over that bears are very adaptable and extremely intelligent. The only problem is they don’t seem to be able to learn that most people are not to be trusted because they, the people, seem to value bears more as rugs, and not as fellow creatures. Bless you both, Chaz

  12. Ahh Jorje, don’t you know it is the truth? I always laugh when I hear folks refer to animals as “dumb” when those same folks have so often forgotten how to enjoy life. I am of the opinion that the most obvious evidence of intelligence is the ability to express joy. Bless you and ALL of yours. Chaz

  13. I really enjoyed this piece and it was so timely. Recently we had a gopher turtle move into the neighborhood and have also had mama black bear and two cubs hanging out in the trees in the back yard. Haven’t seen the bears in the last couple of days but the gopher turtle (Sharyn has given it the name “Sydney” for no other reason that she does not know its sex) is thriving in his very own “gated community” on a vacant lot surrounded by a chainlink fence. Perhaps the fence will keep Sydney from becoming a hockey puck for the neighborhood bear team…

  14. Mike, do I ever love the “hockey puck” analogy! You take care of Sydney now, ya hear. Thanks for the comment and blessings to you both. When I say “both” I mean you and your sweetie, not you and Sydney! Chaz

  15. Born and raised in Florida and never had a chance to see a bear! Oh, how I miss the woods of Florida! Kansas, where I live now is mostly wheat and corn fields. I do remember one time, in Florida, this little squirrel came running up and landed in the middle of my chest! And, from that moment on I couldn’t get rid of it! Now, I like the wild life, but from a distance! The only thing I could figure out was that something must have happened to it’s mother, and I had been selected to take her place. For at least two weeks that squirrel stuck to me like glue. Finally, we had to take a trip out of town. so, I placed the little guy outside our screened patio, and we left. When we got back I saw the squirrel outside with some bigger ones and at this point the little squirrel didn’t want anything to do with me! Which was fine with me!

  16. Donaldo, I was visiting with some bears recently and the were bemoaning the fact that they had never had the opportunity to see a real live Donus Youngeii! And pal-o-mine, there is no way you could be mistook for a mama squirrel. I was attacked and eaten by a man eating squirrel one time and I have to say It was frightening experience. Blessing on you and yours pal, Chaz

  17. Dear Charles. Such a beautiful story. Sorry for the little turtle but that’s Nature … Bears can be playful but their strength can be dangerous. That’s nature.
    We appreciate and love what we got here in Florida. I can tell you Charles once I run into the front doors’ costumers I seen lot of lizards get hidden from me. So So nice and Enjoy each moment of nature. Praise PaPa GOD.
    And Praying for You and All to keep enjoying this beautiful life …

  18. Leo my friend, as for the turtle being slobbered and drooled on that isn’t so bad, after all, the bear was just playing! We are so fortunate to live in a state where there is such an abundance of wild creatures to entertain us. Keep looking up, the best is yet to be! Chaz

  19. Beautifully written. Your bond with nature was set early in life – you were blessed with the opportunity to grow up amid critters, on a private island in opossum and leatherback turtle country, by parents who chose an unencumbered life. Imagine how different your life would have been if your childhood home had been a two-story house in an urban neighborhood.

  20. Judith m’ darlin, only Papa God could have orchestrated life as it is and was! What a glorious childhood! All some people see is deprivation, I see manifold blessings. Blessings to you and yours dear one, Chaz


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