210-pound black bear dies after being hit by car on 61

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A black bear tagged and collared this month has died after being struck by a vehicle on U.S. 61 near the Claiborne County line.

Brad Young, black bear biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said the bear was collared Nov. 1, just north of the Big Black River, and died near the same spot a week ago.

“Unfortunately, it walked out into southbound traffic” at about 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14, Young said. “It looked like it was headed toward the Big Black.”

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The bear was hit about 4 miles north of the Claiborne County line, at the Big Black River. Young said the bear, which was about 5 years old, could have lived to be 20 or 25.

“He was about 210 pounds when we caught him two weeks ago,” Young said. “He was healthy.”

Terry Miles is a game warden in Claiborne County and was the first on scene. He said it heavily damaged the car, which was driven by Vivian Rushing, who could not be reached today.

He said the bear was the first hit by a vehicle on U.S. 61 in several years.

“We had one hit about seven or eight years ago, just across the Big Black on the other side in Claiborne County,” Miles said.

Young said bear-crossing signs then were placed to alert drivers. However, because it was dark and between hills, the bear was likely not visible, Miles said.

Young estimated at least a dozen black bears are roaming Warren County and Davis Island, just northwest of the Claiborne County line.

“Obviously, that area around the rivers has a lot of habitat,” Young said. “They use those waterways as travel corridors, especially right there where you’ve got the Mississippi, Big Black and the bayous.”

Young cautioned drivers, saying this was the time of year when bears are searching for food before winter.

“They do move around a lot right now,” Young said. “What they’re going through right now, they’re just eating as much as they can to build up fat reserves for the winter. They’re going to be moving, trying to find those food resources.”

Young also said vehicles are the leading cause of unnatural black bear deaths in the state.

“For the most part, traffic is the biggest problem,” Young said. “We have the occasional poaching or accidental killing, but other than that, they don’t have any natural predators.”