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600-pound black bear collides with 18 wheeler on highway

THAYER, MO (KAIT) -

Word travels fast when you have a bear of a story to tell. "If he hadn't taken that extra step, he'd still be alive today," Paul Veatch recounts the incident.

In the early hours of Monday morning, the driver of an 18 wheeler headed towards Thayer, Missouri thought a calf had run into the side of his big rig. Turns out, it was a massive black bear that walked into the side of the truck as it was driving down Highway 63. "Paw size, just amazing. Big, blocky head," Veatch said.

The bear weighed in at 600 pounds. Following the accident, a Missouri Department of Transportation officer was tasked with moving it from the road. "He had to do that with a log chain and pulled it with his truck," Veatch explained.

Then, came the chore of getting it loaded onto Veatch's truck. "Three of us, we just couldn't move him so he had to call in assistance from a local shop to get a front end loader there."

Veatch, an agent for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the size of the bear has a lot to do with the season, as it was getting ready for winter sleep.

Veatch noted it was a huge bear regardless. "This big ole boy has walked around here and stayed out of sight and out of mind for a long time," he said.

While they aren't common, Veatch said bear sightings do happen. The Missouri Department of Conservation estimates roughly 400 bears live in Southern Missouri.

In June, a black bear was spotted pawing around a campsite along the Current River near Doniphan. This time of year, game cameras are picking up bear activity.

"Right now, we're getting a lot of reports of people who have corn out for their deer that they're feeding, we're getting a lot of pictures on trail cameras."

Less than twenty miles from Thayer in Myrtle, Missouri, a hunter captured photos of multiple black bears in late August.

Though people are aware of these bears in the area, Veatch said the 600-pound beast that died Monday is still garnering a lot of attention.

"It's amazing how many offers I've had to, if we'd let them have the bear, they'd pay for mounting it if we could put it here in a local store or something," Veatch said.

There won't be a 'Thayer Bear' on display. Veatch said the bear is at the department's headquarters in Jefferson City for further testing. They are two years into a bear study in Southeast Missouri, but this bear did not have a tag on it's ear.

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