Black bear dies after being hit by car on I-205

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith



A black bear died of head injuries after being hit by a Honda Civic on Interstate 205 on Wednesday afternoon.

Around 12:30 p.m., the male bear was shambling west across the northbound lanes of the interstate, when he was struck by the sedan at the exit to Northeast 134th Street in Salmon Creek.

“This bear took the brunt of the car right in the head,” Capt. Murray Schlenker with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Police. In his 15 years with the agency, Schlenker said this is the first time he’s seen a bear hit on an interstate.

The bear died of his injuries by the time Schlenker arrived to the accident scene. The Civic had minor damage to the lower front bumper.

The adult male bear, estimated to be anywhere from age 3 to 5 and weighing about 100 pounds, was in breeding mode. Breeding season starts around April 15 and runs through early July, depending on the weather, Schlenker said.

“They cover a lot of ground looking for females,” Schlenker said. “Where he came from and where he was headed to is hard to know.”

He speculates the bear may have traveled through the Salmon Creek drainage area to the freeway.

Bears are tough, Schlenker said, and can typically walk away from being hit by a car when they’re struck broadside. But bears are nearsighted, making a busy road a huge hazard, especially if the animal is unfamiliar with the sound of traffic, Schlenker said.

Fish & Wildlife took possession of the dead bear and will determine its exact age through a tooth sample before returning the carcass to nature.

Bear sightings have been numerous in Clark County this spring, including reports in east Vancouver and Camas.

Residents may see more bears in residential areas during the breeding season, Schlenker said. Hot weather odors — barbecues and warm garbage — can attract bears. A bear’s sense of smell is about 2,100 times better than a human’s, so even if the trash doesn’t smell to you, it smells great to a bear.

Schlenker said people can reduce their chances of attracting a bear by double- or triple-bagging their garbage, and bringing pet food inside.