Black bear dies after multiple vehicles collided with it on Interstate 70 between Copper and Frisco

An adult black bear is dead after multiple semi tractor-trailers and vehicles hit it on Interstate 70 near Officers Gulch on Monday around 9:30 p.m.

Colorado State Police responded to the scene around 9:40 p.m. to find a Nissan Rogue partially blocking an eastbound lane after it collided with the bear’s body, leaving it inoperable, Trooper Gabriel Moltrer said. No injuries were reported despite multiple vehicles colliding with the bear. 

Multiple agencies say a semi tractor-trailer likely hit the bear initially. 

The collision did not result in a formal lane closure, but crews with Colorado State Police and Colorado Department of Transportation were on scene working to clear the roadway until 10:45 p.m. 

“If you do strike an animal, call us right away,” Moltrer said. “Do not try to move the animal by yourself. We don’t want the driver getting hurt.”

CDOT spokesperson Elise Thatcher said the area of the crash between Frisco and Copper Mountain sees far more collisions with elk and deer, but she said motorists should remain cautious in Summit County. 

“Drivers should be aware of wildlife moving through the area. Spring is an important time for wildlife migration,” Thatcher said. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rachael Gonzales said animals remain active in Summit County year-round, and wildlife is often most active between dawn and dusk. 

The area east of Vail Pass is known to have a high population of wildlife. In light of that, Summit County Safe Passages has been raising funds to build three wildlife crossings across I-70 to help reduce wildlife collisions. Construction has not started on the project, which is estimated to cost upwards of $15 million.

This is the second black bear hit by a vehicle this year in Summit County, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports. In 2022, only three accidents involving bears were reported to the agency, but more than 20 bears have died in accidents involving vehicles in Summit County since 2020. 

These statistics only include accidents that are reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife and may not capture the full picture of wildlife accidents in Summit County. 

According to Colorado State Police data, 2022 saw 73 crashes caused by animals. Moltrer explained that this data only encompasses accidents involving Colorado State Police and does not account for accidents where the Summit County Sheriff’s Office or town police departments handle the call. 

Moltrer said it’s important for motorists to report accidents involving animals by calling central dispatch. If motorists hit a animal, Moltrer says they should move their car to the shoulder or out of the roadway, and if they can’t move their vehicle, activate the vehicle’s hazard lights and seek safety. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, CDOT and Moltrer said drivers and passengers should not attempt to move any animal that’s been hit and to be careful near any injured animals. 

Between 3,000 and 4,000 accidents involving animals occur each year, according to CDOT. 

Colorado State Police provides the following advice to avoid collisions with wildlife:

  • Slow down and stay alert when you see a highway wildlife warning sign especially between dusk and dawn 
  • If you see one deer or elk, expect others
  • Remember to scan ahead on the sides of the road for signs of movement and to watch for the shining eyes of animals that reflect car headlights at night. 
  • Most importantly, slow down and concentrate on retaining control of your vehicle
  • It is important to maintain control before, during and after a collision with an animal should one occur

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