LAKE WORTH BEACH, FL — The intruder that practically flew into Michael Litersky’s Lake Worth Beach, Florida, apartment has such a sweet-sounding name — this could be Pooh, couldn’t it? — it’s hard to imagine it was capable of inflicting such harm. It was a “honey bear,” and it relentlessly attacked Litersky until he finally managed to lock it in the bathroom.
Here’s what a honey bear isn’t: It’s not Pooh. It’s not even a bear. It’s not a monkey, either, though it looks a bit like one and hangs out in trees in its natural rainforest habitat in Central and South America.
Here’s what a honey bear is: a kinkajous, from the family Procyonidae, the same family as raccoons. It has a long tail like a monkey, and uses it to hang upside down while feeding or for support while eating.
Kinkajous also are fruit-eaters, and that’s how the trouble started between Litersky and the honey bear. Litersky put out a watermelon outside his door, hoping to lure the unfamiliar looking mammal he’d seen around the neighborhood.
The 37-year-old Litersky had no idea what he was getting himself into when he invited the fierce, wild bundle of energy into his world of domestication on a morning in late July.
It went straight for his legs, gripping his limb with long, nimble fingers that serve kinkajous well in treetops. Litersky tried to shake it off. He did manage to free himself, but the honey bear came back with the same determination as a honey badger — another animal with, frankly, too nice of a name given its behavior.
Gllian Hicks, Litersky’s partner, told news station WPTV the honey bear was waiting at the door when Litersky opened it and “bum-rushed him” and then tore into him, scratching, biting and clawing.
Adult kinkajous weigh about 10 pounds, “but it sounded like a 300-pound man was tackling him in the kitchen,” Natalie Dulach, another roommate, told WPTV.
The honey bear finally locked in the bathroom, officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission carted it off it to a private sanctuary. They figure it was probably an abandoned pet.
Hicks said the fight between the kinkajou and Litersky “was a tie.”
“I’d put my money on the kinkajou next time,” she told WPTV.