BEMIDJI -- Although most drivers are careful to watch for deer on rural roads, several have encountered another large beast to avoid.

On Sunday, Nov. 25, the Minnesota State Patrol removed a deceased black bear from Highway 71, about 12 miles north of Bemidji, after it apparently had been hit by a vehicle.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

It’s not a singular incident, though, as at least two other bears in the area have been struck by vehicles in recent months. Dave Rave, area wildlife supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the incidents reflect a strong population of bears in the region.

Although the agency doesn’t keep stringent counts, Rave said there have been relatively high numbers of nuisance calls regarding bears during the past three years. There also has been a high success rate from bear hunters, which points to strong population numbers, he said.

“There’s more bears in the population than we’ve had for quite a while,” Rave said.

The bear from Sunday’s accident was a 100-pound, 1.5-year-old black bear. When full grown, male black bears usually reach between 200 and 300 pounds, although some may weigh upward of 500 pounds or more. Adult female black bears normally weigh 150 to 250 pounds.

By comparison, an adult male deer, according to Rave, weighs about 200 pounds.

In addition to being a bit heavier, bears have a lower center of gravity. Because of that, a collision with a bear might cause more damage.

“Often, you’ll hit the deer, and it’ll flip the deer up and (it’ll) go up and over the car,” Rave said. “A bear is usually a little bit lower, and your car would take the full impact of it.”

Those unfortunate enough to hit a bear will at least be eating well later on. Like deer, motorists who strike and kill a bear are able to take it home, provided they contact a conservation officer.

“Bears are exceptionally good to eat,” Rave said.

Hitting a bear this late in the season is rare. By the first of November, most are napping away the days.

“This time of year, it’s pretty unusual to see a bear out,” Rave said. “They typically stay in the den most of the winter.”