By Jim Hannah
Enquirer staff writer
FLORENCE - A forensic analysis conducted by the University of Tennessee at Martin has confirmed hair recovered from a wrecked Buick was from a black bear.
The results end nearly four weeks of debate on whether a black bear was roaming Northern Kentucky this past spring.
A Florence mother of two reported to Boone County sheriff's deputies that she hit a black bear at 10:30 p.m. June 1. The animal was crossing Weaver Road at Interstate 71/75.
Fish and wildlife officials in Frankfort began to doubt it was really a bear, however, when a team of investigators - some with night-vision goggles - found nothing.
The woman, Laura Hermann, said the bear was in the roadway for a minute or so and then staggered off the road.
Her husband, Jim Hermann, who was a passenger in the minivan with the couple's two children, described the animal as 3 to 4 feet tall at the shoulders.
Officers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources sent fur samples from the wreck to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency forensic lab located at UT Martin in northwestern Tennessee.
"We put the Boone County fur under the microscope and compared it with known black bear hair," said Mike Stockdale, lab supervisor and senior wildlife forensic specialist.
"We couldn't conduct a DNA test because none of the hair contained a root tip. The root is the only part of hair that contains DNA."
Stockdale said he looked at the hair's color, length and diameter. He also dipped the hair into a chemical solution to view the inside of the hair through a microscope.
Mark Marraccini, spokesman for Fish and Wildlife, said Kentucky does not have a lab equipped to do such tests.
"The results are not what I expected," Marraccini said.
"It's very unusual to have a black bear in Northern Kentucky."
Marraccini speculated the black bear was a pet that got loose.
While Boone County sheriff's deputies say they haven't received reports of black bear sighting in the past couple of weeks, the Hermanns weren't the only people to report seeing the bear.
Deputes took at least two reports from residents who reported seeing a black bear run through parking lots or across roads the same day the wreck occurred.
Todd Barker of Villa Hills said he didn't believe his son saw a black bear May 30.
"I was driving west on River Road in Boone County, near McGlasson Farms, when my 11-year-old, Marshall, said he saw a bear," said Barker. "I told him it was a cow. Now I'm sorry for doubting him."
Barker said his son now wants to go back and search for the bear.
"I told him we are not bear hunters."
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