Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Black bear killed on highway

Accident occurred Friday morning near Gimlet Road

Express Staff Writer

A motorist driving along state Highway 75 in the early morning hours on Friday struck and killed a female black bear that was attempting to cross the roadway.

The accident is the second vehicle-predator collision in the Wood River Valley within the past two weeks. Sometime over the June 13-14 weekend, an unknown motorist reportedly struck and killed the alpha male of the Phantom Hill wolf pack.

The most recent collision with the black bear occurred just before 8 a.m., June 19, near the intersection of Highway 75 and Gimlet Road, several miles south of Ketchum.

Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle, one of the emergency responders who responded to the accident call, said the car suffered moderate damage, but was driveable. He described the driver of the vehicle as "very upset" by the accident.

The driver was not cited. A call for comment to the individual allegedly involved in the accident was not returned by press time.

Elle, a resident of the Gimlet area, said a bear had been repeatedly spotted in the area in recent weeks. He said he had a close encounter with a bear only the night before when he came within 20 feet of a large bruin.

"It's been common in our neighborhood ransacking garbage cans for probably a month," he said.

Elle said there's no way of knowing whether the bear killed on the highway was the same bear he saw the night before. He said a neighbor of his spotted another bear later that evening just across the highway from where the bear was struck.

"There's probably more than one," he said.

Rob Morris, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officer in the valley, was called in to remove the dead bear. He estimated the bear weighed about 180 pounds. Morris said the bear probably did not have cubs.

Morris said the bear was only able to run about 100 yards after being hit.

"It died pretty quickly," he said.

Morris said bear-vehicle collisions are actually quite rare. He said he can only remember one other such accident in his 10 years as a conservation officer in the valley.

Jason Kauffman:

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