A 300 pound black bear was hit by a vehicle after it walked in front of traffic Friday night in Perry County, but officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife said black bears being hit in traffic is not that uncommon.
The Perry County 911 Center received a call at approximately 10:00 p.m. Friday night stating that a motorist had hit a black bear on Ky. 80 in front of Campbell's BP near Lost Creek. The bear was killed, but no other injuries were reported.
Steven Dobey, state bear program coordinator with Fish and Wildlife, said the bear population in Kentucky is growing, and that bears being hit by motor vehicles are more common than one might expect. Since the beginning of May, he said, three bears have been struck in Whitely County, one of which was actually hit by a train. Another bear was hit in Knox County over last weekend as well. "You'd be surprised," Dobey said. "It's not actually that uncommon."
Dobey noted that bears range due to several factors, including their search for food, which may bring the animals in contact with humans. "Some problems are with access to garbage and human related food, and you see bears hanging out in populated areas," he said.
Dobey also said the months of June and July are typical for bear sightings because the animal's mating season falls during these two months. "This time of year, the breeding season for black bears kicks in," he said. "And when that happens a lot bears take off roaming. They have incredible movements in June and July."
The black bear population in eastern Kentucky is rising, Dobey said, due to the forests maturing after years of logging. The bear population dwindled in past years, but in neighboring states such as West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee the amount of bears remained fairly constant, and now that the forests are returning to a normal state the bears are returning as well, migrating from the neighboring states.
"The bears are more prevalent now," Dobey said. "The main reason is because the forests in eastern Kentucky have matured and are now a good bear habitat. Kentucky was one of the few states not able to maintain large tracks of forested land; we were kind of playing catch up as far as the bear habitat goes." Dobey noted that the bear population in eastern Kentucky really began to play catch up in the last 20 years.
Fish and Wildlife maintains a tracking program with black bears in the state to help determine movement patterns and population trends, but the bear killed in Perry County Friday was not tagged and did not have a radio collar, Dobey said.