Two bears die in separate vehicle accidents

Police urge motorists to be on the lookout for bears in the roadway

By Joe Beck

A Warren County sheriff’s deputy had to put down a black bear cub after hitting it with his squad car at 8:30 p.m. Monday on U.S. 340 near Bentonville.

Lt. Roger Vorous said the deputy involved in the accident, Robbie Lowery, was uninjured, but the collision left the front end of the squad car with about $500 damage.

Another bear was hit and killed by a vehicle in Maurertown. Phillip Edenton, 56, of Front Royal, was northbound on U.S. 11 in his 2007 Ford pickup around 11 a.m. Wednesday when a black bear ran into roadway near Sawmill Lane. Edenton tried to avoid the bear by swerving into the other lane. The bear died from impact with the front bumper. Edenton’s truck received about $1,700 in damages, according to deputy R.N. French.

These accidents add to evidence of an increase in bear-human encounters in the area over the past several months. State wildlife officials say they have been fielding more reports from homeowners of bears appearing in and around their homes, especially near the Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson national forests.

Vorous said the sheriff’s office is also receiving more bear-related calls as the animals leave the backwoods to look for food often kept in places like bird feeders and trash cans.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website describes black bears as having “a natural distrust of humans” and are usually shy, but also attracted to food left in residential areas.

Vorous said vehicle-bear accidents are “far and few between” compared to deer-related crashes, but that could be changing.

“I’d be very aware of them at this time of year,” Vorous said of roaming bears. “We’re hearing more and more sighting of bears in residential areas.”

Vorous estimated the weight of the bear that hit the squad car at 120 pounds.

“It was a bear cub and apparently trying to cross the road,” Vorous said. “We looked for the mother or another bear, but none was found.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com