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Answer to Opp’s bear mystery revealed

Candace Ellis of Opp and Linda Wright of Florida pose beside the stuffed bear seen posted on U.S. Hwy. 84, which serves as a geocaching site. | Courtesy photo

One generally doesn’t expect to see a stuffed bear sitting on the side of an Alabama highway. Still, it’s there – a few feet off the U.S. Hwy. 331 right-of-way, propped up against a light pole in Opp.

However, many may not know the reason why.

“It’s one of those geocaching things,” said Commissioner David Ellis, who along with his wife, Candace, spends his free time enjoying the popular “geocaching” game. Described as “a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game,” players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online. The website, geocaching.com, is dedicated to the pastime and is where participants log their experiences. Basic membership, which gives members access to the coordinates, is free.

“I had never noticed it,” Ellis said of the bear. “Candace brought it to my attention and said there’s a cache in it. She said she went and found it and the owner told her that at one time, it was a stuffed bear, but dogs had eaten part of the hide off of it.”

Ellis said the couple became hooked on the hobby after a visit from a nephew.

“He was from the Carolinas, and he came up one Christmas,” he said. “I’d never heard of geocaching, but we got involved. And then Candace got a friend of hers from Florida, Linda Wright, involved, and we’ve all been doing it ever since.”

Ellis’ duties on the trip are limited, he said.

“I’m just the driver,” he said.

According to the geocaching website, there are 118 ongoing searches in the Andalusia zip code of 36420. In the 36421 zip code area, there are 79 listings.

In the 36442 zip code, the website lists 206 listings listed throughout the area in spots such as the Florala Wetlands Park. In Wing’s 36483 zip code, there are 268 listings, some of which cross over into Florida.

There are 102 listings for Opp’s 36467. These spots were listed throughout and on the outskirts of town in spots around Lake Frank Jackson and Danley Plaza.

That’s a lot of opportunities for treasure hunting, Ellis said.

“The neat thing about it is, you never know what you’re going to find or if you’re even going to find it,” he said. “We’ve done some where we just couldn’t find the item. My advice is make sure you do your research, get your coordinates right and if all else fails, go back and read the clues.”