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Bear still loose after car crash

LAWRENCEVILLE - It was just another half-hour commute to Lawrenceville for teacher Christie Moon. That is, until a 250-pound black bear ran in front of her car, causing her to slam on her brakes. She hit it anyway.

The black bear was likely the same one seen Sunday in a Loganville neighborhood. Residents saw it eating from bird feeders in the Richmond Place residential loop. Moon hit him on Callie Still Road in Lawrenceville, only a few miles from where he was last reportedly seen near Ozora Road.

Moon was driving from her home in Monroe to her job at the Hooper Renwick Center in Lawrenceville. It was a drive she had done hundreds of times in her three years there as a special education teacher. This particular trip was certainly the most dramatic.

"I think I was in shock," Moon said. "There's a bear, and I'm thinking, 'No one's going to believe me.' I'm on my way to work, and I hit a bear."

The impact did more damage to Moon's Honda Civic than it did the bear. Her bumper came off, its rim was bent and the front badly damaged. Meanwhile, the bear kept running and got away. Moon hit his back leg but didn't think the impact hurt him too badly.

A woman in an SUV also almost hit the bear as she was driving in the opposite direction. She swerved when she saw it, but Moon wasn't so lucky. The other driver stayed as a witness as Moon called the police and her father to tell them what happened.

It wasn't until seconds before she saw the bear that Moon realized what it was. At first, she thought it was just a huge dog. When she realized what it was, she wondered if anyone would believe her. Even the police dispatcher asked her repeatedly if she was sure it was a bear and not a deer.

"I think my first reaction was: 'I think everyone is going to think I'm crazy,'" Moon said.

After the incident, Moon planned to go home to change out of her muddy clothes and then return to school. But her car battery died after she got home - a casualty of the collision.

She is still trying to figure out what she should tell her students when she returns to school. Already, she has gotten many phone calls from bemused co-workers wondering what happened.

The bear is still at large, said to Don McGowan, state biologist for the Division of Wildlife Resources. He drove up and down Callie Still Road and surrounding areas hoping to find signs of the bear. He said the injury will not change the way the department deals with the investigation, which is to let the animal return to the more wooded areas.

"It really just depends on how injured it was I guess," McGowan said. "It could recover. It may have just been stunned. It could be fine now - or it could be a serious injury, and it could just die."

McGowan said black bears are rarely aggressive to humans but advised that people who see bears keep their distance. Residents of the area should also avoid leaving food and garbage outside.

Some local residents, such as Susan Lancaster, are mostly worried about their pets. She has two dogs and a cat. And while the dogs tend to stay indoors, the cat likes to go in and out of the house.

"I certainly don't want to have to wrestle a bear, but if it comes down to my pets and the bear, he and I are going to have a problem," Lancaster joked. "As for my husband - he is on his own."