Motorcyclist dies after hitting bear

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Posted March 12, 2021 | By Ainslie Lee, Ocala Gazette
  • Bears become more active as spring approaches

A Florida black bear is shown in this file image. On Thursday night, a 42-year-old man on a motorcycle hit a bear on State Road 40 in the Ocala National Forest. Both the man and the bear died. [Stock image]

A 42-year-old Ocala man was killed after colliding with a bear while driving his motorcycle on State Road 40 in the Ocala National Forest on Thursday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The motorcyclist, whose name was not released, was headed west on State Road 40 near the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 just after 11 p.m. when he hit the bear. The bear also died in the incident, according to FHP reports.

The man was not wearing a helmet. He was taken to Ocala Regional Medical Center where he died.

Thursday night’s accident comes as Florida’s black bear population begins to become more active.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC), warmer springtime temperatures spur black bear activity as the animals begin to venture from their winter dens. Spring officially arrives on March 20.

Cubs are often born in January and February. By spring, the cubs and their mothers are old enough to roam further.

Half of Marion County lies in prime bear territory, according to FWC data.

The area has the right mixture of flatwoods, swamps, scrub oak ridges, bayheads and hammock habitats that bears seek. Bear sightings are common in spring and fall and include bears venturing into urban areas of Ocala.

In 2015, it was estimated that 1,200 of the state’s 4,050 black bears lived in the Central Florida area.

Because SR 40 bisects the Ocala National Forest, seeing a black bear isn’t uncommon.

According to FWC, bears will often cross major roadways while searching for food and mates. And while most will make it safely across, others will be struck by vehicles.

Vehicle collisions are responsible for 90% of bear deaths, reports state.

Last year FWC attributed 270 bear fatalities to roadway incidents. A total of 332 bear deaths were counted in 2020, according to state records.

Bear activity tends to increase at dusk and dawn. Drivers should also take caution when traveling on roadways lined by wooded areas.

“While most of the vehicle-bear collisions occur around the Ocala National Forest, they can happen on many roadways throughout the state,” according to FWC’s website. “When you are driving through areas where bears may be present, be extra cautious and obey any posted advisories.”

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