COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — An early morning crash on Interstate 75 Thursday caused multiple injuries and major traffic delays lasting several hours. According to Florida Highway Patrol, a pickup truck struck a large black bear in the southbound lanes of I-75 near mile marker 115, resulting in a pile-up involving two tractor trailers and several passenger cars.
Officials said three people were taken to the hospital, but that their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. The bear died at the scene.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, June is the start of mating season for black bears.
Samantha Arner, Animal Care Naturalist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said mating season will make the bears more active.
"They're going to be on the move a bit more," Arner said. "They have really large home ranges in order to scavenge and look for different habitats."
Crashes involving bears are not as common as those involving panthers in Southwest Florida. But according to Florida Fish and Wildlife, road kills are the leading known cause of death for bears statewide.
Arner said that's not surprising, since people have encroached on their habitat.
"So we will unfortunately see an increase in these types of incidents, and it's truly tragic," she said. "All the attention you can put on the road could help prevent injuring wildlife, and help prevent injury to us as well."