“By the grace of God, we’re here,” said Ray Palis, after he and his wife, Mary, crashed into a 450-pound black bear on Oct. 12.

The collision totaled their car, a Dodge Grand Caravan, yet remarkably, they escaped with only a few bruises. They were wearing their seatbelts, and all of the airbags deployed.

“It was like hitting a cement wall. It shocks you,” Ray said.

It was pitch dark that night as the Nevis couple drove on State Hwy. 34, about four miles northeast of Akeley.

“I thought the car had exploded. I had no idea, did not see it,” he recalled.

A young couple stopped to help the Palises. “They immediately came to the car and said, ‘Can we help you?’ They called 911 because we both were so shook,” Ray said.

North Memorial Ambulance responded, along with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

One of the ambulance drivers told the Palises that they were lucky to be alive.

Ray’s insurance company said there was another a bear-car collision somewhere between Akeley and Nevis the night before, Oct. 11. Ray also learned of similar accident between Nevis and Park Rapids.

For that reason, the Palises wanted to warn all drivers to be alert, especially at night, because black bears are evidently roaming.

Ray said he was surprised to learn that the dead bear became his responsibility. The ambulance driver asked him, “What are you going to do with your bear?”

Ray struck a deal so that the ambulance crew would get the meat and hide, but Mary would get to have the bear skin rug every summer at their Spider Lake home.

Dave Garshelis, a bear research scientist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said, “Car-bear collisions are not very common in Minnesota. The fact that you mentioned three in your area in such a short time frame is very unusual. It is true that bears are roaming more now. Many have traveled to feeding places outside their normal home range, and are starting to migrate back to a denning area. They cross a lot of roads in doing so, and are fat and not very quick, so possibly more prone to being hit by a car.”