Last week, a bear cub wandered onto Interstate 26 and was killed in traffic. The sight of the dead bear cub was heartbreaking. More heartbreaking was the sight of the mother who had been foraging with her other cub at the roadside. The mother ventured into the road to see about her cub. Police arrived and immediately shut down the Interstate.
Black Bear mothers are strongly devoted to their cubs. It is not without reason that people are advised never to come between a mother bear and her cub. As traffic stopped, the mother bear seemed perplexed. She was trying to decide what to do. She did not realize her cub was dead. The police officers distracted the bear and pulled the cub off the Interstate to the side of the road so that the mother could reach it. As the officers walked away, the mother grabbed the cub by the nape of the neck and pulled it off into the woods, her other cub following behind.
The mother stayed with her cub, trying to awaken it to no avail. This behavior is not uncommon for Black Bears. These animals are fiercely protective of their cubs. They are attentive to their every need and communicate with them much like human mothers do, with soft gurgles and soothing sounds. Black Bear babies cry and sound a lot like human babies. The mother protects her cubs from danger, and have been know to fight other bears who might do the cubs harm. She will fight to the death if necessary to protect them.
Like human teenagers, the cubs remain with their mother long after they are mostly self-sufficient. Most cubs will remain with the mother for two years, so surely this particular mother was devastated by the limp body of her cub.
After dragging her cub away into the woods, the mother stayed at his side, occasionally touching him. Was she grieving? Did she still not understand what was going on? No one can say. What we do know is that she stayed with the dead cub for several hours. Then she nudged the dead cub once more and slowly walked away with her remaining cub close behind.
Did I mention that a 50-pound bear cub can be legally shot during bear hunting season in North Carolina? Yes, it is perfectly legal to kill a 50-pound first season bear cub. Legal to kill a cub the mother so loves, a cub who would otherwise spend the winter snug in the den with his or her sibling and mother. A cub for whom the mother will almost certain grieve in her own way
The same issue of the newspaper reported that a human mother has been arraigned and held on charges of severe child abuse. She had put her toddler in extremely hot water as punishment and the child sustained severe burns to the buttocks and legs. The child also showed signs of previous abuse, including a black eye and cigarette burns on the feet.
It all seems so senseless.