Chapel Hill, N.C. — Authorities said that a black bear spotted alongside of Interstate 40 on Thursday morning was most likely killed when a vehicle hit it.
Tammy Kenion was driving to work in Chapel Hill around 5:50 a.m. when she saw what appeared to be a black bear lying on the side of the road. Kenion called 911 to report the sighting near Exit 266, N.C. Highway 86 on the north edge of town.
"A deer or a bear?" the 911 dispatcher asked.
"It looks like a bear. It's black," Kenion said.
Officials with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission determined that the bear's injuries were consistent with being hit by a vehicle. The bear had road burn and a dislocated back leg.
Wildlife officers said seeing such a large-sized bear, which was moved to the Department of Transportation office in Hillsborough, is unusual in the area.
"It's pretty common down on the coast this size, but to be here in the central part of North Carolina, it's a pretty nice-size bear," wildlife officer John Brown said.
The black bear stood nearly 6 feet when erect and weighed over 200 pounds. Wildlife officers planned to test its teeth to determine its age.
"It's one of the rarer finds and, certainly, something that's very, very special to have around," said Scott Robertson, with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
The Museum of Natural Sciences took possession of and stored the bear's body. The museum will use it for educational purposes, whether in an exhibit or for research, officials said.
Wildlife officials were not sure why the bear had been in the area of Chapel Hill. They speculated he could have been forced west by the wildfire in eastern North Carolina or been going to Jordan Lake for food.
"These bears are just moving through the area," Brown said. "It's nothing to get alarmed about."