A bear cub was hit and killed by a car in Yosemite National Park, California. The vehicle appears to have been running at insane speed. The puppy's mom has tenderly watched over her son's lifeless body for hours. A poignant scene, which a park renger wanted to tell as follows: "Bear struck by a vehicle, dead on the side of the road.
Unfortunately, it has become routine. I record the coordinates on my phone, collect the equipment I might need and head to the place. My work here is easy, really: find the bear, move its body away from the road, compile a report and collect samples and measurements for research.
Then I set off on my way with another number to add to the total number of bears hit by vehicles this year, data which we hope will help prevent future collisions. However, the reality behind each of these numbers is quite different.
According to the coordinates that I have been given, I am still a few hundred meters away. I try to remember how many times I have done this and, frankly , I don't know. This is not what each of us chooses this activity for, but it is part of the job.
Then something catches my attention. A puppy. His tiny light brown body on the street, almost invisible to every passerby. He is a new puppy, no more than six months old, now lifeless under a small pine tree. For a moment I lose track of time as I stand there staring at her tiny body, but then the sound of multiple cars reminds me of my place and role.
I take a deep sigh and continue with my task. I take the puppy and take it to the woods. I don't have a certain destination. I'm just walking until I no longer feel the chaos coming from the street behind me. I see a grassy spot surrounded by trunks and I approach it.
I place the bear cub near one of the logs and sit on the opposite log. I take another moment and then continue with my work. I open the backpack, take the binder and start with the evaluation. It's a girl. This immediately triggers thoughts that she may have been having - perhaps she would have had puppies of her - and in the meantime I hear a stick breaking.
A little further on there is a familiar figure who stares at me intently. It's another bear. Surprised, I get up quickly and the bear runs towards the bush but stops not far away and looks towards me. Acting instinctively, I pick up a stick and split it over a tree to scare the bear.
I remain silent and listen to the footsteps of the bear that goes away. It could be a bear coming for food or it could be a common crossing area for any other reason: last week another bear was killed not far from here. But then I hear it again and completely change my mind.
Behind me I hear a sound, a sort of grunt with a deep but soft sound at the same time. I immediately understand what it is. It is a vocalization that female bears make to call their cubs. I turn and look in her direction and there he is, the same bear as before staring intently at me.
It is not a coincidence. This bear is the mother and she has never left her cub. My heart sinks. It's been almost six hours and she hasn't given up on her baby yet. I can only imagine how many times she has been back and forth down that road in an attempt to wake him up.
She's extremely lucky she wasn't hit too. Desperate attempts to revive the animal continue. Here I am, between a grieving mother and her daughter. I feel like a monster. I get up, quickly prepare my bag and leave. Time to go, even if my job isn't done.
I also installed a camera. Because? Each year we report the number of bears that are hit by vehicles, but the numbers don't always paint a picture. I want people to see what I've seen: the sad reality behind each of these numbers.
Please remember that when we travel through Yosemite National Park we are all visitors to the home of numerous animals and it is up to us to follow the rules to protect them. Obey the speed limits, drive carefully and watch out for wildlife. Protecting the bears of Yosemite is something we can all do."