Bear crashes: Trooper warns drivers after two run-ins in 24 hours

OKANOGAN, Wash. — Drivers, be “bear aware.” Within the past day or so, at least two drivers have crashed into bears on Washington state highways.

On Tuesday, Washington State Patrol Trooper John Bryant shared news of the run-ins.

“In the past 24 hours we had 2 car vs. bear collisions in our district,” said Bryant, whose WSP District 6 covers Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Kittitas, and Okanogan counties.

On Monday around 4 p.m., Bryant explained, a Lexus sedan struck a bear on eastbound State Route 2 west of Leavenworth. The crash happened near milepost 87 in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The driver was OK but the animal was not; the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife euthanized it, according to WSP.

On Tuesday morning, Bryant said a Lincoln Navigator ran into a bear west of Okanogan. WSP reports the driver was westbound on State Route 20 near milepost 227.

“The bear on SR20 was knocked down but eventually got up and walked away,” Bryant said, adding that the animal “laid on the road for a bit, then got up and went back into the forest.”

Neither of the drivers were injured but both of their vehicles had to be towed — even the Navigator, a large SUV that weighs more than 5,000 lbs.

Black bears are the most common but Washington is home to grizzly bears, too. Fish & Wildlife says “their presence has been documented in the Okanogan Highlands and the North Cascades.”

Experts at WSU say very small populations of grizzlies inhabit the North Cascades and the Selkirk Mountains of northeast Washington and Idaho.

If you plan on driving in the mountains and/or through forests this summer, keep an eye out, and give animals plenty of space when they are near or crossing a road.