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Yosemite ranger shares sad encounter with bear whose cub was killed by vehicle

Posted at 12:16 PM, Jul 20, 2021

Warning: Some may find details and an image in this article disturbing.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. -- A ranger at Yosemite National Park shared a devastatingly sad story about an encounter with a mother bear who could not leave the side of her cub that was killed by a vehicle.

The story was posted to the park's Facebook page Friday, recounting the events the ranger experienced after receiving what they say is the all-too-familiar call of a dead bear on the side of the road after being hit by a driver.

"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 ranger wrote.

"Pretty callous. However, the reality behind each of these numbers is not."

The ranger writes about the moment they found the dead cub in harrowing detail.

"A cub. 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. 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. I let out a deep sigh and continue on with my task."

After finding the female cub, the ranger says they picked up the body to move it to another location when they heard a noise in the nearby woods. The ranger recalled the noise was 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 wrote. "I can feel the callousness drain from my body. This bear is the mom, and she never left her cub."

From there, the ranger details the experience as they watched the mother continue to mourn the loss of a child.

"My heart sinks. 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. It's extremely lucky that she wasn't hit as well. The calls to the cub continue, sounding more pained each time. I glance back finding myself hoping it would respond to her call too, but of course, nothing. Now here I am, standing between a grieving mother and her child. I feel like a monster."

The ranger says they immediately began to pack up to leave the bear and her cub alone, but set up a remote camera to document the sadness behind the rising numbers of bears being hit and killed by vehicles. The camera snapped a photo of the mourning bear standing above the cub.

At the end of the Facebook post, the ranger shared an important message to Yosemite visitors, along with a link to keep the park's bear population alive and thriving.

"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."

This story was originally published by Jeff Tavss at KSTU.