OCALA, Fla. — A 42-year-old Ocala man on a motorcycle and a bear were killed late Thursday night when the man crashed into the bear, which was in the roadway, the Florida Highway Patrol said Friday.

What You Need To Know

  •  Ocala man, 42, killed when motorcycle crashed into bear in roadway

  •  It marks 3rd human death from a collision with a bear in Florida since 1998

  • Officials report 270 bear deaths statewide from road incidents in 2020

Bears frequently die on Florida’s roads. This marked a rare incident in that a human died — the third such death from a collision with a bear in Florida since 1998, said Mike Orlando, assistant bear-program coordinator at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

All three victims have been on motorcycles, he said. The man killed in Thursday’s incident wasn’t wearing a helmet, according to a Florida Highway Patrol news release.

“We have had other fatalities, but they weren’t directly because of the bear — but got out of the car and another vehicle struck them,” Orlando told Spectrum News on Friday.

Thursday’s incident happened in Ocala National Forest at around 11 p.m. near the intersection of State Road 40 and State Road 19, between Ocala and Ormond Beach, the FHP said.

Lt. P.V. Riordan, an FHP public affairs officer, said he didn’t know the size of the motorcycle or the bear and whether the man was riding with other motorcyclists.

“What I do know is that he was traveling west on S.R. 40, struck the bear, which was in the road, and basically got dumped off his motorcycle,” Riordan told Spectrum News. “The bear was in the motorcycle’s lane of travel.”

The FWC reports 270 bear deaths statewide from road incidents in 2020, fairly consistent with previous years. It also says most vehicle-bear collisions occur around Ocala National Forest.

The estimated population of the Florida black bear, a subspecies of the American black bear, stood at 4,050 in 2014-15, according to the FWC. That included 1,200 bears in its Central management unit, which includes Ocala and Orlando.

Mike Orlando, of the FWC, said the commission thinks the Florida black bear population remains at least steady from the last estimate.

“We have a pretty robust bear population,” he said. The commission continues to seek designation of bear crossings and the construction of underpasses through which bears can stay off roads and “avoid these types of incidents,” he said.