Speeding has consequences, and that’s especially true in national parks like Yosemite. A baby bear cub recently died at the hands of a careless driver there. And a park ranger witnessed a heart-wrenching scene when he showed up to move the cub away from the road.
The ranger had to locate the cub, move it far from the road and then gather information and fill out a report for future reference. But as he went about his tasks with clinical professionalism, he wasn’t prepared for a mama bear who just couldn’t say goodbye.
The cub was about six months old, and the Yosemite ranger was moved by the sight of it. In a Facebook post that has since gone viral, the ranger described the scene.
“Its tiny light brown body laying just feet from me and the road, nearly invisible to every passerby. It’s a new cub… 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.”
Yosemite Ranger Encounters Grieving Mama Bear
After the ranger gathered himself, he moved the bear away from the road and into the woods, selecting a grassy area shielded by logs. Suddenly, he heard a noise. When he looked up, he found himself confronting an adult bear.
“From behind me there’s 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. “It’s no coincidence. I can feel the callousness drain from my body. This bear is the mom, and she never left her cub. My heart sinks. It’s been nearly six hours and she still hasn’t given up on her cub.”
The ranger was face-to-face with the results of speeding through Yosemite. The mother bear, helpless to save her cub, could only call out to it over and over, awaiting a response.
“The calls to the cub continue, sounding more pained each time,” the ranger went on. “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 had one last task to do before he left. He set up a remote camera. Every year, national park rangers have to report the number of bears hit by speeding vehicles. But few people catch a glimpse of the toll they take.
“I want people to see what I saw: the sad reality behind each of these numbers,” the ranger added. “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. Protecting Yosemite’s black bears is something we can all do.”
Since 1995, more than 400 bears have been hit by cars in Yosemite, the National Park Service estimated last year. According to the NPS, black bear attacks in national parks are very unusual, and no one has ever been killed or seriously injured by a black bear in Yosemite.