A bear was struck and killed on Interstate 10 in West Baton Rouge Parish on Thursday, the second death of a male black bear in recent weeks in a parish that has seen its bear population grow in recent years.
Last month, a black bear that had been observed several times in Port Allen was captured but later euthanized because it had become too reliant on humans.
Maria Davidson, manager of the large carnivore program for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said Thursday that West Baton Rouge Parish is on the eastern and southern fringe of one of the state’s sub-populations of black bears, that of the Upper Atchafalaya, which is centered in Pointe Coupee Parish.
“We have seen their range expand into West Baton Rouge in the last decade,” Davidson said.
This time of year, she said, young male black bears of about 2 years to 3 years of age “will wander out. They will set out and cover great distances.”
The behavior is very individual and a young male black bear could either just stay put or wander off hundreds of miles “or anywhere in between” and may turn around and come back home, Davidson said.
They’re traveling because they’re being displaced by older, more aggressive males in the spring breeding season, she said.
The incident Thursday happened near the parish line between West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes, when a driver traveling east on I-10 struck a bear crossing the interstate.
"The driver noticed a black blur by the side of the road on her right" and then came the crash that deployed all the air bags in the car and totaled it, West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Clifton Brown said.
"She never knew it was a bear until we told her," he said.
Road density is fairly high in the areas where there are black bears, the only type of bear in Louisiana and a protected species here, Davidson said.
“They don’t know to look both ways,” she said.
Road mortality, such as Thursday’s incident on I-10, “is far and away the highest cause of death” for the bears in the state, she said.
Davidson said that the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Department, along with agencies in the 16 other southeastern states with black bears have created a website, https://bearwise.org where people can learn about the bears.
A fully grown male bear wandered into Central in July 2018 and spent the night in a tree outside a home before wildlife workers tranquilized him and transported him to north Louisiana.