While traveling at night people may often keep an eye out for deer and other wildlife. For many, the thought of a bear running out in front of your vehicle is almost unheard of.
As for one Lonoke County man, that thought became his reality on Christmas eve.
On Dec. 25, Kevin Cauley, 49, of England struck a black bear on his way home from a Christmas party with family. The accident occurred around 7:45 p.m. when Cauley, who was traveling south bound four miles north of Humnoke, said the bear lunged out in front of his white 2012 Ford F-150.
"All I had time to say was ‘bear’ before we hit," Cauley said.
Cauley said the impact caused all airbags in the vehicle to deploy, causing minor injuries and body soreness to both him and his fiance’ Sue Burgess, also of England. After reporting the incident to the county’s 911 dispatcher, both he and Burgess remained in the vehicle for fear of the bear attacking.
With the rise of water following the recent rain fall, Cauley said he was cautiously watching deer as he traveled home that evening. He said while deer often cross the highway when water levels are higher never did he expected to see a bear crossing the road. Cauley said many who stopped to offer assistance also questioned if he was sure it was a bear he hit.
"I’m fixing to turn 50 and I’ve never seen a bear in this area," Cauley said.
Once assistance arrived, there was no sign of the bear other than hair on the vehicle. Burgess was transported to Baptist Hospital in Stuttgart where she was treated for her injuries and released.
According to Cauley, he returned to the scene of the accident the following day and found the bear in a ditch, submerged in water. It was located only 10 to 15 yards from where the truck came to a stop following impact the previous night. Cauley said the bear had a red tag in his ear, meaning it was a nuisance bear that had been relocated at some point. He said due to the recent holidays, he has yet to hear where the bear had been originally relocated to.
Cauley said the bear has been release to him by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. It measured approximately 6-feet, 3-inches from nose to tail and weighed 380 pounds. Cauley said he plans to have a full body mount or bear skin run made from it to put in his home.
"It will defiantly be a Christmas I will never forget," Cauley said.
According to Cauley, his truck received around $9,000 worth of damage.
Despite numerous phone calls to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, including Captain Jason Whitehead, regarding information about the bear and the incident, calls were not returned as of press time Tuesday.