Driving at 65 mph on I80 east near Cisco Grove, I barely saw the roadkill out of the corner of my eye. I saw a small mass of an animal with long dark brown fur, long orange or yellow guard hairs across it's shoulders and down it's back. Not much different than the Wolverine I have seen. Seconds before I had been looking to the north at the Black Buttes and thinking about Byers Lake, where someone had photographed our local Sage Hen creek Wolverine crossing the ice a few springs ago. I shouted to Shirley, "they have killed our Wolverine". Not sure if it was a Wolverine or maybe a small cub bear, I had to go back and check. I pulled in off the road near the animal and guessed it was a cub, California Black bear. A closer exam proved that it was a bear cub.
Very fat, heavy, maybe 100 lbs, I drug it off the highway, more out of respect for the bear, than worry about the motorist. I could almost guess the history of it's short life. Back in the 1970's two DFG bear biologist, Larry and Dick had helicoptered into the Granite Creek drainage south of here, following the radio signals from a female bear that had denned under a big log, with 10 feet of snow on top, right along Granite Creek. While digging thru the snow to change the batteries in her radio, the irate female had burst thru the snow just behind them and scared them so bad they almost did not jab her with the syringe with the drugs. After she went to sleep, an inspection of the den produced two small cubs with their eyes closed, about the size of a squirrel. Following the mother with her cubs from our airplane the next summer, we watched them go north, cross the freeway, and go all the way to Grouse Ridge and the Byers lake drainage. The freeway was new then, the deer herd fairly large, and records kept by Cal-Trans at Kingvale recorded about one thousand deer killed on the new I 80 each year. In late August that year, how the mother bear and her cubs made it back across the freeway and back down into the North Fork of the American river had to be just luck. The years have some how come and gone and also several generations of our mother bear. But in my mind, my little friend killed on I 80 yesterday, "I must have known your Great Grandmother." Get out of our way, or die. Are we in too much of a hurry to care any longer?
We had been staked out for hours yesterday on the Beaver pond in a remote part of Sierra county. Trying to get more pictures of the baby Wood Duck chicks we have been following. Tired and on our way home, we were traveling east on the Jackson Meadows road and were only about 3 miles from highway 89 when we saw him. A skinny, half-starved coyote climbing up the steep bank from the upper Truckee river. After seeing many wild coyotes thru the years my first comment was he was starving. He walked out on the highway, head held low, a really dejected looking animal. The car ahead of us slowed to a stop and we pulled off and parked behind him. The creature walked slowly up to the car when I saw something about his head that just did not look right. Ears too big, face not pointed, muzzle too long. I said "it must be a half-breed". I have seen them before, but never with a collar around their neck. It was a skinny, half-starved dog! The guy in the car ahead got a rope and I got down low and spoke softly, and he walked right up to me. I put my hand along side of his head, and he stopped, and pushed back against my hand. I saw some fresh blood on his right front foot, a wound he had just got coming up the steep cliff. The fellow in the car ahead wondered where the nearest house or cabin would be, and I said about 10 miles at least. Our dog was lost and had been lost for a long time.
One other car stopped and offered a gold miners pan full of water. The driver in the car ahead said he had some kibble dog food in his trunk. Now who carries dog kibble in their trunk in the back country? The dog wolfed the food down, and drank his fill of water out of the gold pan. He walked up to the other driver's car and looked up. You could see he really wanted in the car. The driver that offered the water left and said when he got cell service he would call the Sierra Co. Sheriff's office. I knew from other experiences like this, no one would come. Too far in the boonies, too many more important things to do. To leave the dog along the road, was to kill the dog. If he made it to the highway, he would be hit by a car for sure. Not a really pretty dog, no one would want him.
After talking at great length about what we should do,the guy in the car ahead said he would make room in the back of his car, he just could not let him die after what the dog must have been thru to survive. End of story. The guy who took him saw the desperate look in the dog's eyes, and said there was no other answer. He had to take him and give him a good home.
Although it is had to believe, there a some good people out there. It has been a long time since we have met one....but we did yesterday! We slept good last night.