St. Petersburg city official Goliath Davis III and his wife escaped serious injury two weeks ago when their truck struck a 600-pound bear carcass and flipped over on a dark Panhandle highway.
"The mass of it was so big," Davis said Monday. "It just picked up the truck and rolled it; … there was a lot of blood, flesh and hair.
"We are very fortunate. We are lucky to be alive."
It was the third-largest bear in recorded Florida history, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The male bear was killed about 11 p.m. April 23, authorities said, when it was first struck by a semitrailer on U.S. 27, just 2 miles west of Lamont.
Moments after the semitrailer hit it, authorities said, the bear carcass was hit by a truck driven by Davis' wife, Teresa Anderson. Their vehicle rolled over and was totaled, according to Davis.
Neither Davis, who was sitting in the passenger seat, nor his wife was injured. Davis said they were both wearing seat belts and didn't spot the bear until it was too late. "You couldn't see it until you were right on top of it, a big black bear on the blacktop," he said.
And after their accident, Davis said, a third vehicle crashed into the carcass.
Davis is a former St. Petersburg police chief and former deputy mayor who now serves as the city's senior administrator of community enrichment. He said they were on their way to Tallahassee to help move his niece out of a Florida A&M University dormitory.
Donald Bailey, a bear-response agent with the FWC, had to use a winch and lift-pole apparatus to get the bear in his truck, according to a state news release.
Getting the bear's weight was a little trickier, as the commission's scale only goes to 500 pounds. The truck was weighed with and without the bear at a nearby fertilizer plant. Bailey said the bear appeared to be in excellent condition and had no tags or marks to indicate it had ever been caught.
In 1945, a 635-pound bear was killed in Volusia County during bear hunting season. A 624-pound male bear was killed by a vehicle in Collier County in 1988.
The FWC warns motorists to watch out: The Florida black bear is active and on the move at this time of year.
Emily Nipps can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8452.