Yosemite National Park shared a heartbreaking account of a young bear who was struck and killed by a vehicle.
“We get this call a lot,” the Facebook post from Yosemite National Park read. “Too much, to be honest. ‘Bear hit by vehicle, dead on the side of the road.’ Sadly, it’s become routine.”
According to the park, the vehicle-bear collision happened at 12:00 p.m. but was not reported to a ranger until about four hours later around 4:00 p.m.
“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,” the post adds.
After about an hour-long drive, the ranger arrived on the scene to discover a car part lying in middle of the road. A dead bear cub was also found down an embankment, according to the report.
“Its tiny light brown body laying just feet from me and the road, nearly invisible to every passerby. It’s a new cub—couldn’t be much more than six months old, now balled up and lifeless under a small pine tree,” the park ranger wrote. “For a moment I lose track of time as I stand there staring at its tiny body, but then the sound of more cars whizzing by reminds me of my place and my role.”
The ranger picked up the cub's body and started carrying it into the woods toward a grassy area. It was no more than 6 months old and about 25 pounds.
“The least I can do is find it a nice place to be laid,” the ranger continues. “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.”
Suddenly, the ranger heard the crack of a stick breaking in the forest and looked up to see another bear staring intensely back.
At first, the ranger thought it was just a “timely coincidence,” and that perhaps the bear was there to scavenge or that the location could have been a common crossing area. But then, “a deep toned but soft sounding grunt” pierces the air, shattering the quiet.
“I immediately know what it is. It’s a vocalization, the kind sows (female bears) make to call to their cubs," the park ranger explained.
That's when the ranger realized that bear mother never left her cub.
"I turn and look in its direction and there she is, the same bear from before intently staring back at me. It’s no coincidence. I can feel the callousness drain from my body. My heart sinks", the ranger writes. "It’s been nearly six hours and she still hasn’t given up on her cub. I can just imagine how many times she darted back and forth on that road in attempts to wake it.”
The mother bear continued to call out to her baby, sounding off a painful alarm each time.
"Here I am, standing between a grieving mother and her child. I feel like a monster," the ranger writes.
"I get up, quickly pack my bag, and get out of there. It is time to go even though my task is not done. Quickly, I set up a remote camera. Why? Every year we report the number of bears that get hit by vehicles, but numbers don’t always paint a picture. I want people to see what I saw: the sad reality behind each of these numbers," the ranger adds.
Yosemite National Park is home to a large black bear population, estimated between 300 and 500. The last known grizzly bear was shot outside the Yosemite region in the early 1920s.
According to the organization Keep Bears Wild, more than 400 bears have been hit by vehicles in Yosemite National Park since 1995.