Bear killed on Interstate 75 may have been looking for a mate, FWC says

Chad Gillis
The News-Press

Bears are active this time of year and out to mate, which is probably why a 500-pound male black bear was hit and killed by a vehicle on Interstate 75 Thursday morning. 

"Breeding season is starting right now, so that's probably one of the reasons he was crossing I-75," said Mike Orlando, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "So we have bears show up this time of year in all types of crazy places in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Tampa. They disburse this time of year and it's not unusual for bears to be hit by cars this time of year."

FWC estimates there are about 4,400 bears in the Sunshine State. 

More:Black bear causes I-75 crash near Bonita Beach Road, lanes reopen

The largest adult male on record in Florida weighed 760 pounds, with the largest adult female coming in at about 400 pounds. 

Road kills are the No. 1 known cause of death for black bears, and vehicle collisions account for about 90 percent of documented deaths, according to FWC records. 

The state divides up bear populations into seven zones. 

Video:Watch a bear walk across a driveway in North Naples

Lee and Collier counties are in the south zone, which has an estimated population of 1,150 bears, according to the FWC. 

"In the northeast region where I'm at we've recovered five bears in the past week," Orlando said. 

More:5 benefits of a news-press.com subscription for environment coverage

More bears aren't hit here, he said, because there aren't many roads going through undeveloped areas like Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier. 

Bears are relatively abundant in Collier but are also commonly seen in Lee, according to the FWC data. 

More:Man attacked by a bear has recovered but is wary around home in North Naples

Orlando said it was difficult to determine the size of the bear because of its condition but that it was about 500 pounds. 

"It's a lean time for them," Orlando said. "They go into hibernation in the winter and it's about food availability more than anything else. Our bears will have short periods of naps for the big males while they're waiting for the summer." 

Join the Save Our Water Facebook page.