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Driver escapes injury after Black Bear darts in front of car near Buellton

A driver escaped injury Monday morning after he struck and killed a Black Bear on U.S. Highway 101 just south of Buellton.

Jude Arona says he was driving northbound on Highway 101 around daybreak when he saw the bear in the center median.

“I was in the far left lane and he kind of hesitated at the shoulder and I think, ‘okay, this is crazy, I don’t think he’s going to pass. I can make it on through,’ and at last minute he darts out — I can’t avoid him.”

The brown-colored bear was struck and somehow managed to scramble off to the side of the highway where it died from its injuries.

“Decent size, small enough not to do serious damage, but my car is totaled. I’m okay. I’m grateful for that much,” said Arona.

Wildlife experts say at this time of the year with the extreme heat that we’ve been having, a lack of water and a lack of available prey has big, backcountry animals like bears and mountain lions on the move and often find themselves along the U.S. 101 corridor.

“Especially an animal so beloved as a bear, so iconic, you don’t want to see anything bad happen to a creature like that, but man, it is what it is. It could have been a lot worse if the bear was bigger,” said Arona. “Supposedly a deer can jump up and go through your windshield. It sounds gnarly to be optimistic in a situation like this.”

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