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Driver hits 265-lb bear

A local woman got the shock of her life this weekend after striking and killing a 265-pound bear on Plywood Mill Road.

Randall Lee, a state conservation officer, said the driver of the Ford Explorer, Michelle Torres, was not injured during the accident. He said that as “far as bears go, this was a pretty good-sized one.”

“I’m 6-foot tall, and it’s taller than me when stretched up,” Lee said. “The woman’s son said it did very little damage to the car, but looking at something that big, you’d think it would have totaled the front end.”

Lee said the woman thought she struck a wild hog and contacted family members. Upon closer examination of the accident site, they found the bear in the ditch.

Lee said Covington County is home to a sizeable bear population, thanks to its location between Mobile and Escambia counties, the area known as the Tensaw Delta, and Eglin Air Force Base.

However, it was one of the largest bears he’s seen in Covington County in a while, he said.

“It was a full-grown adult male, which generally average in size up to 350 pounds,” he said. “Now, I’ve heard of a few bigger, but not in this case.”

Lee said state officials plan to have the bear mounted for display.

Torres had several passengers in the vehicle at the time. The group was out trick-or-treating when the accident occurred.

One of the passengers, Caitlin Jernigan, 15, said the incident was very scary, because they thought they had hit a hog. Jernigan said they turned around and saw the animal crawling toward the ditch, but were too scared to get out of the vehicle.

While black bears are known to live in Alabama, they aren’t often seen in Covington County. In May of 2008, a Florala couple spotted a bear in a tree in their backyard. They later learned the bear was tagged and had been released from the Niceville area.

Lee said he also has had a recent report of a game camera catching images of a black bear.