A local family had quite the unexpected visitor while traveling highway 321 on Tuesday night. The Hicks family was near the southbound entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Blowing Rock, when a bear came across the northbound lanes and ran into their 2005 Town and Country van.
Rebecca Hicks tells WataugaOnline.com that her daughter was driving when the accident occured, around 9:15pm, and never saw the bear until impact had already been made. Hicks adds that the bear jumped up as soon as they stopped the vehicle, looked at them for a moment and then ran up the bank into the woods. No one in their van was injured.
Each fall NCDOT reminds drivers to be alert for animals crossing the road, mainly deer as they account for about 90% of animal related crashes. Between 2012-2014 nearly half of the 58,372 animal-related crashes in the state took place in October through December. A 2014 N.C. Department of Transportation study showed there were 17,831 animal-related crashes that year, the lowest number since 2006. But over the three prior years, animal-related crashes claimed 11 lives, injured more than 3,386 drivers and passengers and caused nearly $145 million in damages.
Largely in part to social media, residents and visitors are keenly aware of bear sightings in the area. In April we brought you the story first of a bear getting locked in a car in Sugar Mountain causing extensive damage. In May 2015 a local resident sent in photos and video of a bear visiting their home. In April 2014 WataugaOnline.com published an article about black bear sighting becoming more common across the state. Also from the same month the National Forest Service reminded those visiting area national forest to practice bear safety.