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Black bear in Bulloch struck by car
A semi-tranquilized young black bear lies in a muddy pool at Talon's Lake subdivision. - photo by JAKE HALLMAN/Staff
    A young male black bear struck by a vehicle on Langston Chapel Road Friday night died from its injuries, and authorities say the animal was likely just passing through the area in search of another bear population.
    The closest documented population of black bears is in the Macon area, said Sgt. William Vickers, ranger with the Metter Department of Natural Resources.
    Mike Lindamood, an emergency medical technician with Bulloch County EMS,  was driving home Friday night just before 10 p.m.  when he struck the bear, he said.
    He and his wife had "just got done seeing a movie, and (the bear) ran out from the woods and I hit  him," he said. "I knew it was a bear when I hit it."
    He pulled over and inspected the damage to his Jeep - about $3,000 worth, he said.
    His wife kept asking him to get back into the vehicle, but Lindamood continued assessing the damage - until "he stood up and growled at me," he said. "I didn't know he was still there. I politely go to the safe side of the Jeep."
    The bear crawled into the woods, and when a Bulloch County Sheriff's deputy and Bulloch County Humane Enforcement Officer Christopher Ivey arrived, they went in after him.
    It wasn't the first time Ivey had heard about a bear in the area. Early Friday morning, he received a call about a bear sighting from a woman living in the Talon's Lake subdivision.
    He responded to the call, and another deputy helped him look for the bear that morning, but the only one they found was a wooden one on someone's porch.
    "We saw the wooden bear and saw a coyote, but we didn't see the black bear," he said. Thinking the caller had either been pulling a prank or was possibly influenced by chemicals, Ivey and the deputy dismissed the call.
    Therefore, when Lindamood called him later that evening and said he had hit a bear, " I thought he was just cutting the fool," he said.
    But when he heard Central 911 dispatch responders to the scene for an accident involving a bear, he knew the early morning report of a bear sighting had to have been true.
    Ivey and the deputy soon found the wounded bear, and called officers from the Department of Natural Resources as well as Bulloch County Humane Enforcement Officer Joey Sanders.
    It was obvious the bear was wounded, he said. "It got up, walked around two or three minutes and then lay back down," he said. "You could tell he had internal injuries."
    Vickers evaluated the bear when he arrived and called for assistance from DNR Wildlife Management Area rangers, who decided to tranquilize the animal and relocate him.
    "They tranquilized the bear six different times before he went down for the count," Ivey said.
    When the bear was finally subdued enough to safely handle, he was placed in a cage in a truck. He was on his way to a wildlife management area when he "died in transit," Vickers said.     "He was hurt pretty bad."
    The bear, which Ivey and Sanders estimated to weigh 150 pounds, was a young male that was likely roaming after a "dispersion from his home area," he said. "Statesboro is probably just where he wound up."
    Dominant male bears don't allow other males in their groups, so the young male bear was probably chased away and was looking for a new family, he said.
    "Usually when we see these transient bears it is going to be a young male," he said.
    But it is also likely he was on the prowl because of the wildfires in the Okeefenokee Swamp, where a significant population of bears exist as well, Vickers said. "It is tough making a living in that part of the world for the bear right now."
    Black bears aren't as dangerous as people think, unless provoked or cornered, said Jim Gillis, wildlife technician from Fitzgerald, who was in the Statesboro area to help with the bear.
    "If you see one in town, call us," he said. "But if you just see one crossing the road, he is probably just moving on. The best thing is to leave them alone."
    Black bears can grow to 450-500 pounds, but the average size is around 250 pounds, he said. The bear Lindamood struck Friday was likely around 4-5 years old, he said.
    "He was about waist high on all fours," Sanders said. " He was probably six feet tall if he stood straight up."
    "They are not very dangerous and try to avoid people," Vickers said. "They become more of a nuisance than a danger, getting into garbage cans for a food source."
    If the bear had survived, it would have been released in an area where other bears were found. "But he was hurt pretty badly," he said. "He probably wouldn't have made it anyway (if it had not been captured)."
    Vickers, Sanders and Ivey all said this was the first time they had ever received a call about a bear sighting in Bulloch County. However, Vickers said people who have claimed to see 'honey bears" or "hog bears" in the area likely saw young black bears.
    "They are the same bear," he said. "Ursula americanus."
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