Man accused of bringing Kodiak brown bear cubs to Florida faces numerous charges

Two Kodiak brown bear cubs found wandering a Florida highway in December are now safe inside the Panama City Zoo, while the man who brought the cubs to the Florida Panhandle could be in trouble.

Shae Allen Hensley of Baker, Fla., is facing nearly a dozen charges from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, according to WEAR in Pensacola.

Among the charges: unlawfully importing the two Kodiak bears without obtaining a permit; failing to report the cubs’ escape; and obtaining the animals without the proper enclosure.

He was also issued warnings for having improper enclosures for other animals, including foxes, skunks and raccoons.

The two Kodiak bears, found in the wild only in Alaska, were discovered wandering along Old River Road in the unincorporated community of Baker in the early morning hours of Dec. 5, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigation led to what the sheriff’s office described as an “inadequate” enclosure belonging to a “self-proclaimed bear trainer,” later identified as Hensley.

According to an incident report obtained by WEAR, Hensley claimed he had the necessary permits when he obtained the two Kodiaks in February of last year. But the FWC said his license was expired and he didn’t submit an application to import the bears until a month later. That application still hasn’t been approved.


The facility in which he housed the bears was never inspected, as required by law. The report says the enclosure in which the bears were kept was nothing more than chain link fence with a wire-mesh roof.

Hensley said the bear cubs escaped because he forgot to secure the gate, according to the report.

Additionally, Hensley claims he was training the bears for Larry Wallach, a New York resident known in the exotic animal trade and the subject of a national Humane Society investigation which revealed mistreatment of animals in his care. Wallach has denied the allegations.

The FWC noted Wallach also does not have a valid license to import or own bears in Florida. WEAR also reported Hensley’s property is listed for sale.

The two Kodiak cubs, meanwhile, are residing at ZooWorld in Panama City Beach. It wasn’t immediately known if that will become the cubs’ permanent home. Details of where the bear cubs originally came from were not specified.