Mammoth bear déjà vu … almost
Another bear accident on Hwy 203 this past Tuesday had an eerie sense of déjà vu to the recent death of a sow and the subsequent abandonment of her two cubs. Luckily this week’s accident ended on a happier note.
A motorist heading toward the Town of Mammoth on 203 struck a sow late Tuesday afternoon, sending her two terrified cubs running, one to the left side of the highway, the other to the right. The sow was able to get to her feet and lumbered off the highway with a slight limp. She too ended up on the right side where she followed her cub up a tree.
Mammoth’s Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles arrived on and spent the next two hours watching and waiting. His hopes were twofold — first that the sow would survive and second that the lone cub on the left side of the highway would be able to reunite with its mother and sibling.
Several Mammoth Lakes Police Officers came and went from the scene, but since there wasn’t much more to do than wait, they went back to other duties. Approximately 45 minutes after the accident, the bears started calling to one another — sow and cub on one side of the highway called out to the lone cub on the opposite bank, and the lone cub called back.
Soon the lone cub could be seen coming out of the trees, closer to the highway. As Searles said, it was “vectoring in” on its mother and sibling. However, it would reach a gully just before the highway and not be able to hear the calls of its family. It would climb a tree, be able to hear again, climb down, and lose the sound. Eventually the cub found higher ground and safely crossed Hwy 203. Shortly after, it reunited with its mother and sibling in the tree where they remained.
Wednesday morning Searles returned to the scene and the sow or her cubs were gone, which “was a good sign,” he said. Searles seemed to have high hopes that the sow would survive.
Three weeks ago a different sow was not so lucky when she was struck and killed by a motorist (click here to read story), also on Hwy 203. Her cubs were determined by the Department of Fish and Game (which will be changed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife as of Jan. 1, 2013) to be large enough to be left on their own and were not rehabilitated. The decision was controversial and many members of the public, as well as Searles, did not agree.