SEARCY, Ark. – One man found himself in a bit of a hair-raising situation after a close encounter with a black bear.
“When I looked up I had thought a car had hit a dog out in the highway in front of the church,” says Shayne Baker, the associate pastor at Valley Baptist Church in Searcy.
It happened late Friday night when Baker went to throw out the trash.
“But then as I continued watching it was obvious that it was bigger than a dog and as it got closer to me it was obvious that it was a black bear,” Baker recalls.
Standing nearly 20 feet away from the animal, Baker says he barely believes it himself.
“I said, ‘Nobody is ever going to believe this,” explains Baker. “Then I realized we got security cameras at the church.”
Baker, who lives next door to Valley Baptist Church, went to check video surveillance from the church’s security cameras.
It was then that he confirmed that it was, in fact, a bear that crossed paths with him late that evening.
“The older couple that hit the bear didn’t know what they hit and thought it was a dog, but after it ran off, they kept driving,” explains Baker. “They are members of our church and returned the next morning to check if anyone had called about a dog missing or hurt.”
Baker contacted the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, who came out that very night to check the area.
“They came out and checked everywhere, but couldn’t locate the bear,” says Baker. “They said the bear must have been familiar with the area.”
Baker says game and fish said if they see the bear to contact them immediately.
Even finding humor in an encounter with the wild that he “bearly” even noticed.
“They came and talked to me and asked if I was the bear whisper or something,” Baker says laughing. “Not at all this is the first bear I have ever seen in my life.”
The game and fish commission has one of the best rated black bear re-introduction programs in the county, with more than 5,000 bears added to the population.
Baker says he feels he is lucky and understands black bears typically are calmer than any other bear. He says the church has found humor in the situation.
“God definitely has a sense of humor because in two weeks we will be starting our vacation bible school which is called ‘In the Wild’,” says Baker. “So we’ve been joking that the bear showed up a little early for his debut.”
Arkansas has a healthy population of bears in the Ozarks, Ouachitas and the Delta region.
While hunting is used as a tool to manage the population, only about 10 percent of the state’s bears are hunted each year, according to game and fish officials.
For more information on the vacation bible camp, click here.