Bear hit by car, put down

Published 12:28 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2017

SOUTH POINT — An early morning traffic accident in South Point lead to a bear having to be put down.

Around 1 a.m. on Saturday, a large black bear came out from the woods in the area of the Ponderosa and was hit by an SUV.

The highway was shut down to prevent the bear from getting hit again, keep first responders safe and to keep people away from the bear.

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One off-duty EMT at the scene said the bear was hit on the north side of U.S. 52 and then crossed the median to a small, weedy lot that is near a hotel and apartment complexes.

“There was a massive concern for public safety,” said Sara Price, of Ashland. “The traffic was re-routed to keep everyone safe. And there is a lot of traffic, even at that time of night.”

And the bear would stand up and watch as traffic or people approached on the road.

“It wasn’t moving around like it was going to leave,” Price said. “But it did not appear that it wasn’t injured enough that it was going to pass away on its own. No one approached it until the wildlife officer showed up because no one was certain it would attack. Everyone just stayed back a reasonable distance.”

The bear put down by State Wildlife Officer Darin Abbot, since it would have likely died if they had tranquilized it and tried to relocate it.

“Due to it being hit by an SUV, at 50 or 60 mph, it had internal injuries. There were law enforcement officers who observed it for an hour or so before I even arrived, and it couldn’t get up, it couldn’t get any where,” Abbot said. “It was suffering and that was one of our main concerns, we don’t want any animal suffering.”

Price said the bear was taken down with two shots to the heart.

“It was very humane, he did not attempt to run away after he was shot, he went down,” she said.

Abbott said there were concerns that if the bear had lived for another 24 hours before it succumbed to its injuries, it still could be a danger to people.

“We didn’t want someone to approach it. If it feels cornered or threatened it will defend itself,” Abbott said. “So we had to make the decision to put it down.”

There was cause for concern by the officers on the scene because people stopped their cars to take pictures.

South Point councilman Chris Smith posted on Facebook that “sightseers decided to park their cars all over U.S. 52 and get out on foot. This caused a traffic problem with all the parked cars, and the sightseers started chasing the bear on foot so they could observe it.”

Smith pointed out the last thing you would want to do is chase an injured wild animal.

“You are taking unnecessary risks and may end up injured or killed yourself,” he wrote. “This was not a skinny small bear. Officers estimate the bear was over six foot long and weighed 300 pounds. Don’t risk your life for a pic.”

The bear was transported to another county for a necropsy. Abbott said the bear weighed a 287 pounds and was probably 6 feet long.

The bear will be studied.

“They will get some DNA, tissue samples, and are seeing how old the bear is,” Abbott said. “It’s a little more in depth than just an average autopsy. They are trying to get as much data as they can.”

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, there are between 50-100 black bears in Ohio. The bears are non-aggressive and fearful of people and rarely attack, as long as they are given space and not cornered.

It did not have recommendations on what to do if the bear is injured.

If you encounter a black bear, raise your arms above your head to appear larger, act calm and do not run away. You are also advised to exit the area and give the bear space.

Abbot said there have been bear issues in Lawrence County before, but nothing like this incident.

“I’ve had reports of bears in the South Point area for two or three years. I have had several people call me about black bears, but unless someone feeds a bear, they stay wild,” he said. “Most of the time, they’ll run through the yard or something but they mainly stay to themselves.”