When a man named Corey Hancock was hiking on the Santiam River Trail recently, he spotted a baby bear in desperate need of help.
Hancock, who is a photographer, recounts the incident on his Facebook page, where he explains that it began raining that day during his hike when he spotted the bear cub two feet off the trail.
“Laying there on his back, seeming by all appearances to be dead,” wrote Hancock. “His lips were blue. His eyes were open but unmoving and hazy. The rain was pouring down, drenching his belly. I might have seen a shallow breath.”
Recalling passing by this same trail an hour before, Hancock knew the cub wasn’t there earlier, so he feared the bear’s mother might not be far away. Assuming he may be attacked at any moment, he took a quick photograph of the dying cub and retreated a short distance down-slope toward a cliff-edge overlooking the river. “I remembered hearing somewhere that bears don’t move as well going downhill. Any advantage I could get, I was taking,” Hancock wrote.
From Hancock’s position by the cliff, he watched the cub and scanned the area for any sight or sound of other animals. Minutes passed, and he watched the tiny bear’s arm twitch a couple of times, indicating that he was alive. He knew he couldn’t survive much longer under these conditions, and he wasn’t going to stand there and watch the cub die in the rain.
So, putting his own life at risk, Hancock rushed to the cub and wrapped him up like a baby in his flannel shirt. “Finally, with this bundle of bear cub in one arm, I took off running toward the trailhead and my waiting vehicle,” he wrote. The whole time, he feared a raging mother bear would come after him, as black bears can smell humans from 500 yards away. Finally, Hancock reached his vehicle and he took the cub out of his stuff-sack and examined him on the passenger’s seat.
He snapped a photo of the bear and uploaded it onto his Facebook, asking for help on where to take the dying baby bear. Hancock performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him, and by this time, his Facebook post was getting attention.
“The next recommendation I got was to bring the cub to the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center, where they had a worker who lived on-site. I phoned and, sure enough, Mary was prepared to greet us and admit the bear when we arrived. I gave him the name Elkhorn, which refers to the area where I found him,” Hancock wrote.
Mary could see immediately Elkhorn was near death. He was starving and dehydrated, so Mary put Elkhorn on a heating pad and injected him with electrolyte fluids. “The next morning, another Turtle Ridge worker, named Charles, phoned to let me know that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had contacted him, and were on their way to pick up the cub,” wrote Hancock.
Apparently, Hancock could have been fined $6,000 for helping the bear, or even worse- sent off to jail for a year. Luckily, this kind-hearted man was not punished and was able to see Elkhorn briefly before he was taken away.
“For now, the ODFW is taking good care of him in his recovery. They’re restricting Elkhorn from human contact, as much as possible, including visits from the press. That way, the chances of him imprinting on any of us will be minimal.
Meanwhile, they’re exploring his options. Perhaps, through the sharing of this story, someone out there who’s involved in one of the better sanctuaries, or who has extensive expertise in re-wilding black bear cubs, will offer Elkhorn an invitation,” Hancock wrote.
We are so happy that Hancock literally risked his own life to save this dying baby bear because, in the end, he wound up saving the bear’s life.
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[Featured Image Credit: Corey Hancock/Facebook