YOSEMITE, California — "Speeding kills bears."
That's the message a ranger at Yosemite National Park shared on Facebook after responding to a call about a bear that was hit and killed by a car.
This call started out like any other, the ranger recalled. They recounted how they would grab their equipment, head out to the spot where the bear was hit and move its body away from the road.
"Sadly, it's become routine," the ranger wrote.
The ranger said they think the crash happened around noon, with the call coming in at 4 p.m. Then the drive to the location would take about an hour, the ranger said.
"My job here is easy, really: find the bear, move its body far away from the road to prevent any other animals from getting hit while scavenging on it, fill out a report, and collect samples and measurements for research."
After that, the ranger said they will be back on their way with another number of bear and car collisions to add to their data.
The ranger talks about what it was like when they reached the coordinates that day. They scanned the road for clues to lead them to the bear's body. That's when they spotted a piece of a car that had broken off. From there they said they looked down the embankment and saw the bear — a cub.
The ranger said it couldn't have been more than six months old.
After a moment of taking in the scene, the ranger said they got to work, picked up the cub and started carrying it into the woods. The ranger said they had no destination in mind, but was walking far enough away from the road they could no longer hear cars passing by.
"I see a grassy spot surrounded by a semi-ring of down logs and gravitate towards it. The least I can do is find it a nice place to be laid. I lay it down in the grass protected by one of the nearby logs and sit back on the log opposite of it, slightly relieved that it looks far more in place now than when I found it earlier. I take another moment and then continue with my work."
After finding a place to set the cub down, the ranger said they started their assessment.
While taking notes on the cub, the ranger said they heard a stick break and see another bear looking at them as they work.
The ranger said they were surprised and try to get the bear to run away from them. It works and the bear wanders away.
"A few silent minutes pass, and I settle back into my task. Timely coincidence, I think at first. It could be a bear coming to scavenge or this could be a common crossing area for whatever reason—we did have another bear hit and killed not far from here last week."
Then it happened.
The ranger said the moment that changes their perspective came when they heard a deep-toned but soft-sounding grunt.
"I immediately know what it is. It’s a vocalization, the kind sows (female bears) make to call to their cubs."
The ranger said they turned around and see the same bear from before staring at them.
"It’s no coincidence. I can feel the callousness drain from my body. This bear is the mom, and she never left her cub."
It had been about six hours since the cub had been killed and its mom had not given up on it.
"I can just imagine how many times she darted back and forth on that road in attempts to wake it. It's extremely lucky that she wasn't hit as well."
The ranger said the bear's calls to its cub continue and get more and more pained each time. They said they found themselves hoping the cub would respond too, but there was nothing.
"Now here I am, standing between a grieving mother and her child. I feel like a monster."
The ranger then packed their bags and started to get out of there. However, they said their work was not finished.
They set up a remote camera to snap photos of the situation. They said it was a way to paint a picture of the numbers they report on every year.
The ranger ended the post with this message for park visitors:
"So please, remember this. Remember that when traveling through Yosemite, we are all just visitors in the home of countless animals and it is up to us to follow the rules that protect them. Go the speed limit, drive alertly, and look out for wildlife. Protecting Yosemite’s black bears is something we can all do."
You can learn more about car and bear collisions at Yosemite National Park here.
Here in the Sunshine State, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports cars crashing into bears are responsible for 90-percent of known bear deaths.
FWC said bears in the state cross busy roads while searching for food, water and even mates.
FWC lists ways the state is working to reduce bear collisions on its website.
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