Meta resident Jeremy Deardeuff comes from a family that's no stranger to the Mid-Missouri outdoors or wildlife. But early Monday morning, he encountered something while driving home that he never has before: a black bear.
Unable to avoid it, he struck and killed the bear as it ran across the road in front of his 1996 Honda Accord. The Missouri Department of Conservation took possession of the bear, estimated to be 3 years old and 300 pounds, to conduct tests that could determine whether it was born in Missouri or migrated here.
The incident happened when Deardeuff was returning home, driving south on Missouri 133 by County Road 602 in Maries County at around 1 a.m.
"As soon as I caught a glimpse of something streaking full speed across the road. I hit the brakes and then - boom - hit the animal," he said. "There was no way I could have avoided it."
He said he was in shock after his car struck the bear. "My first reaction was "This is a bear? Surely not. Maybe it was a calf. Sometimes calves get out. I definitely knew it wasn't a deer."
The Missouri Department of Conservation says black bears are native to Missouri, but nearly wiped out during settlement. "Now they're making a comeback," the department said on its website.
In 2008, the department came up with a Black Bear Management Plan to "to ensure that bears are managed in ways that minimize conflicts with humans while encouraging population expansion into compatible habitats."
Conservation's website has a map showing around 200 reported bear sightings from 2005 to September 2011, mostly in southern and eastern Missouri. None had been reported in Maries County during that period, although most counties around Maries did have reports.
Deardeuff said he took a couple photos of the bear, then drove three miles to his house. He and his father called the Maries County Sheriff Department and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
"My father is a responsible hunter and conservationist, so he knew what to do," he said.
The sheriff's department posted photos of Deardeuff and the bear on its Facebook page.
The process of meeting waiting for a conservation agent to arrive, speak with him and transfer the bear to his possession took much of the night, he said.
Deardeuff said his car had a couple dents and some damage to the hood that prevents it from shutting all the way, as well as damage to a headlamp. Since he only has liability on the older model car, his insurance won't help with the repairs, he said.
"I'm just glad I'm OK," he said. "It was unfortunate that the bear was killed."