Coyotes, bears, gators — Lake County readers recall critter encounters


Stories of cows trotting up the sidewalk and alligators in the garage at the Ritchie Resort and Sunshine Sanatorium are lame compared to tales from Lake readers who have had crazy encounters of the critter kind of their own.

One stands out.

This story comes from Chuck Celli, who lives on the Crane's Roost golf course in The Plantation retirement community in Leesburg. It happened about 2 p.m. Jan 3, the day before my own stories about living in rural Lake County were published.

Chuck sent an email to friends and then passed it along:

"We have a new hazard on the 4th hole of Crane's Roost. I was reading a magazine on our lanai and looked up to see a large coyote sitting on the fairway. Two guys teed off and both stripped them down the middle.

"When the second ball landed, the coyote ran to both balls, scooped them into his mouth and took off for the wetlands with the golfers in hot pursuit in their golf cart."

Yee-haw! Guess who won that one? Yep. Wile E. Coyote. Time to amend the Rules of Golf.

Below are a few other tales from the outer reaches of this 67-mile-long county.

Yummy — a progressive dinner

The visitor to the Idlewild neighborhood off Lake Unity Road in Fruitland Park usually comes every Tuesday and Friday. Those are garbage pickup days.

"You can see he hit the neighbors — it's like a progressive dinner," joked Greg Thomas, who captured a picture of the ursine visitor with a remote camera activated by movement.

He got a fine portrait of a good-sized Florida bear, browsing the garbage cans the day after Christmas. Mmm…bet there were some serous goodies tucked into those Glad bags.

The creature has become a "community bear" with a lore of his own, Kim Thomas said.

"He's the talk of the town — a lot of people have seen him around. He's not intimidated," Kim said.

The bear started coming regularly to the area around Thanksgiving, Greg said. One of his favorite tricks was to swipe open a screen around a pool and go inside to wolf down the cat or dog food that folks often leave there.

Once, the wife of a pastor who came out of her house to get into her car found him luxuriating in the couple's garage. Yipes! That has to get the blood flowing.

The Thomases have begun keeping their garbage in the garage until the morning of pickup. And neighbors who have seen the creature refusing to put weight on his right front paw have called authorities. Still, midnight is not a good time to fry bacon under the stars around Lake Unity.

Is Milo a smart kitty?

Out at the farm near Leesburg where Lisa Swingle Clay lives with her maternal unit Prudence — known to Facebook fans as "Queen Mum" — a nightly parade of raccoons and opossums is forever on the hunt for a nocturnal handout.