Friday, August 15, 2014

Death on the highway

by Jim and Shirley White

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?



No comments:

Post a Comment