A hiker received a warning from state police after spotting an “almost-lifeless” baby bear, giving it CPR and carrying it away from a trail in search of help near Salem, Oregon, Monday night.
Corey Hancock was miles into his hike when he spotted the tiny cub in distress.
“His lips were blue. His eyes were open, but unmoving and hazy,” Hancock described in a lengthy Facebook post days after the rescue. “The rain was pouring down, drenching his belly. I might have seen a shallow breath.”
Hancock couldn’t just leave the little bear there to die, so he slipped his fingers between the cub’s lips and started to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After three blows, Hancock could see the cub’s chest expand and take a breath.
After that, Hancock believed it was safe to move the bear, which he named Elkhorn. He wanted to find a professional to help the animal.
So he took him to the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center in Salem, where the cub was cared for before being taken by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Veterinarians at the wildlife center said the cub was starving and dehydrated.
The cub was warmed up with a heating pad and given electrolyte fluids, which helped rehydrate him.
Hancock posted about the bear and his wild adventure on Facebook. While many praised him for taking action, others slammed him for moving the wild animal in violation of state law and expert advice.
Michelle Dennehy, the Wildlife Communications Coordinator with ODFW, told CBS affiliate KOIN in Oregon that Hancock should never have moved the bear.
“We advise people to never assume a young animal is orphaned unless they saw the mother die,” she explained. “It is quite common for young to temporarily be left alone in the wild.”
Instead, Dennehy said he should have called ODFW or a wildlife rehabilitator before removing him from the wild.
“This is a good time of year to remind people to leave wildlife in the wild. We see this happen a lot in the spring, with all sorts of young animals including birds, deer fawns and elk calves, and even cougar kittens, getting picked up because people assume they are orphaned,” she continued. “Often, it’s a death sentence for the animal, which misses the chance to lead a normal life in the wild.”
But Hancock doesn’t believe that’s the case with Elkhorn.
“The reality is that Elkhorn was not a cub who’d been waiting while his mother ran out for groceries,” Hancock said. “Far more likely, there was no mother. He wouldn’t have come to be in the condition that I found him in if there had been.”
Hancock believes if he hadn’t taken action, the bear would have been dead within hours.
In the state of Oregon, it’s illegal to remove a young animal from the wild.
But since Hancock took the cub to help it without knowledge the mother may have been nearby, Oregon State Police said a criminal citation wasn’t issued.