Black bear killed in crash with vehicle in Flint Township

The body of a black bear spotted in the road early Monday was a sight rarely seen in Genesee County or elsewhere in Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Michigan State Police troopers were called at about 1 a.m. to investigate after the bear's carcass was found on Interstate 75 near Beecher in Flint Township.

Authorities are looking for a driver who crashed a vehicle and killed the bear. It was unclear what laws, or if any, may have been breached by the driver who encountered a bear in the road. Bears are protected from being shot under Michigan law unless they pose an immediate danger. 

Troopers contacted the Department of Natural Resource's Law Enforcement Division and turned over the body for further investigation.

The DNR doesn't typically have to step in when black bears are spotted near roads, said Holly Vaughn with the DNR's wildlife division. "They don’t tend to loiter around roadways, so we usually don’t have cause to respond."

Michigan State Police said the body of a black bear was found early Monday on I-75 near Beecher Road in Flint Township.

Bear sightings "are not common in the Flint area," Vaughn said. 

"In the springtime, we often see young male bears wandering out of their normal range to try to find food and suitable breeding habitat," she said. "They generally don’t stay in southern areas very long and end up turning around and heading back north. It seems to be an annual occurrence that we see a very small number of black bears outside the normal range."

There are about 12,000 black bears in the state, Vaughn said.

According to the department website, black bears "are solitary animals, with the exception of females accompanied by cubs or yearlings and during the breeding season, when mature males and females can be seen together."

They are not considered true hibernators since "they only drop their body temperature by a few degrees, whereas a hibernating animal's body temperature is almost the same as its surroundings," the department said.

Black bears typically enter their den, which can be rock cavities, root masses, standing trees, openings under fallen trees or brush piles, by December and emerge in late March or April, according to the DNR.

The creatures often roam at dawn or dusk, and their activity patterns shift seasonally depending on food availability. The bears' diet can include plant and animal matter.

The area a bear occupies seasonally or annually is known as its "home-range," the DNR said. Females in the northern Lower Peninsula have an average home-range size of about 50 square miles, while males have an average home-range size of about 335 square miles. 

In Michigan, the animals have been known to live more than 30 years, and most recorded deaths in the state result from hunting or vehicle collisions, the department reported.

Southern sightings and encounters in the state aren't unheard of, the DNR said.

"In recent years, we’ve had confirmed reports of bears in Kent and Shiawassee counties, to name a few of the more southern sightings," Vaughn said. "... A young bear was spotted last week near Owosso in neighboring Shiawassee County and the bear that was struck could very well be that bear, though we aren’t certain."

In 2018, wildlife workers tranquilized and captured a black bear that was wandering through backyards of a neighborhood in Midland with a middle school nearby. 

The 3- or 4-year-old male bear was loaded into a bear trap so it could be taken to northern Michigan for release, the Associated Press reported.

In August 2013, a black bear mauled a 12-year-old girl, Abby Wetherell, while she was jogging on her grandfather's wooded land in Wexford County's Haring Township.

Abby, then 12, played dead in a desperate attempt to survive and needed more than 100 stitches to close deep wounds on her left leg and back. Authorities set traps but didn't catch the bear.