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‘Scary.’ 450-pound bear found dead along highway, rattling North Carolina community

A “larger-than-typical” black bear was found dead near Bladenboro, North Carolina, raising concerns as to what else might be roaming in the dark.

The carcass was discovered Wednesday, March 15, along N.C. Highway 131, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commissions estimates it weighed 450 pounds.

That’s about 100 pounds larger than average for black bears in eastern North Carolina, according to Colleen Olfenbuttel, a certified black bear and furbearer biologist with the commission. Bladenboro is about 100 miles south of Raleigh.

“It was involved in an accident north of Bladenboro around 2:30 a.m. on March 15,” Olfenbuttel told McClatchy News.

“Based off condition of animal, it was a pretty quick death. We suspect it was an 18-wheeler and not a standard car or truck. That’s based on the condition of the animal and lack of any vehicle debris on road. If a standard car or truck was involved, you’d see debris.”

Perry Jacobs of Whiteville reported on social media he was the driver involved in the incident. He shared photos showing his SUV sustained enough damage to be considered a total loss.

“My Honda Pilot was the victim. It was a rough ride home but thankfully I made it. The tire was wobbling,” he said.

The bear was running across someone’s yard real fast. I slammed on my brakes, but it was too late. He was running from something, probably dogs. I didn’t want to get out, cause I thought he was still alive. I thought he was just knocked out.”

The impact left Jacobs with soreness in his neck, shoulder and left hand, he says.

Law enforcement responded to the scene, he added, and they cleaned up crash debris from the road.

Photos of the bear have been widely shared on Facebook, with some calling the incident “scary” and a wake-up call for parents to closely watch their children — even in the backyard.

One commenter suggested a DNA test is needed to make sure it wasn’t related to the mysterious creature known as “Beast of Bladenboro.”

“I wouldn’t want to run into him in the woods!” Diane Hinson wrote on Facebook.

“Don’t know who was the ‘baddest’: The bear or the vehicle that actually was able to drive away after the two collided!” John Inman posted, sharing a photo of himself beside the bear.

Eastern North Carolina is home to the largest black bear population along the East Coast — estimated at 13,000 bears — and they grow larger than bears in the state’s western mountains, Olfenbuttel says. In fact, the world record for a black bear, 880 pounds, was recorded in eastern North Carolina’s Craven County in 1998, she says.

“Average” size for male bears along the North Carolina coast is 320 to 350 pounds, while average for males in the mountains is 220 to 230 pounds, Olfenbuttel says. The mountain population is also smaller, at an estimated 8,000 bears.

The difference in size is due to milder weather along the coast and an abundance of natural foods and equally tasty agricultural crops like corn and peanuts, she says.

Eastern Bladen County has long had a population of bears, some weighing more than 600 pounds, and the population is now expanding in all directions, Olfenbuttel says.

The crash with the larger-than-average bear came at a time when bear collisions aren’t expected, she said.

“With black bears, the peak in vehicle collisions is in the fall. We also see a peak for male bears in May and June, which is breeding season and they are moving around for females,” she said.

The collision sends a message that people in the area need to be cautious while driving, particularly at night, Olfenbuttel says.

Bearwise.org offers the following tips for driving in bear country:

  • “Stay alert, stick to the speed limit and scan the roadsides. If a bear crosses the road, watch for cubs before you drive on.

  • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk when bears are most active; black bears are fast and hard to see.

  • If you hit a bear, don’t try to help it. Call 911 or report to authorities as soon as you can.”

  • If you see a dead bear in North Carolina, call the state Wildlife Resources Commission at 866 318 2401 and report the location so state biologists can collect data from the animal.

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