He Found A Lifeless Bear Cub And Faced A Tough Decision

April 1, 2017

On Monday evening, Corey Hancock of Salem, Oregon, went for a hike along the Santiam River looking to take some photos. But when the rain became too heavy to take pictures, Hancock turned back and found something unexpected.

man rescues baby bear cub
Credit: Corey Hancock

The bear cub was emaciated, soaking wet and barely breathing.

"It was laying on its back," Hancock said in a phone interview, "barely moving. It twisted a couple times. Its paws weren't moving. It wasn't breathing. It was dying."

Hancock realized he didn't have much time to make a decision. He could watch the cub die in the rain, or he could scoop the animal up, risking the wrath of a raging mother.

After 10 minutes of waiting for any sign of the mother, Hancock chose to act. I thought about my 2-year-old son, and I saw a baby that deserved to live," Hancock told The Washington Post.

Hancock wrapped the cub in his flannel shirt and ran the mile-and-a-half to where his car was parked.

He posted about the cub on Facebook and people sent him suggestions about where to take it. Finally, someone from Turtle Ridge Wildlife Rehab, which was closed, opened up to accept the bear.

Hancock performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation along the way when it appeared the animal had stopped breathing.

"It would take like a breath like every minute and a half," he said. "I pulled over a couple times and debated on whether he was dead or alive."

man rescues baby bear cub
Credit: Corey Hancock

When Hancock arrived at Turtle Ridge, he said, an employee put the cub on on a heat blanket and injected him with some electrolytes.

"He start warming up and breathing better," Hancock said.

man rescues baby bear cub
Credit: Corey Hancock

Hancock called Turtle Ridge at 6 a.m. Tuesday and the rehab facility said they stayed up all night and the cub was hydrated and starting to move around.

"The cub, nicknamed 'Elkhorn,' received care throughout the night," Charles Harmansky-Johnson of Turtle Ridge wrote in an email. "Close to 2 a.m., after several rounds of subcutaneous fluids, his hydration and body temperature finally normalized."

"Nearly 12 hours later," Harmansky-Johnson continued, "Elkhorn is showing significant signs of improvement. He's being more vocal, attempting to stand and move around.

Harmansky-Johnson called Hancock a "hero."

Elkhorn is now in the custody of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

man rescues baby bear cub
Credit: Corey Hancock

While ODFW said they didn't want to speculate on the exact situation of Hancock's cub, they advised "to never assume a young animal is orphaned unless they saw the mother die. It is quite common for young to temporarily be left alone in the wild."

But after reviewing Hancock’s story, Sylvia Dolson, executive director of Get Bear Smart Society, told The Washington Post that Hancock made a good decision.

"The rescuer, in this case, did the only thing any caring person should do," she said, noting that the cub "would have almost certainly died" without help.

"Some mothers may leave their cubs unattended in a tree for several hours while they go to find food," she said. "The cubs are safe in the tree. A cub lying on his back on the ground almost comatose is dying. I personally support stepping in and saving their life."

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