SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon man has quite the story to tell after he rescued a bear cub he believes was close to death in the Cascade foothills.
Corey Hancock says he was out hiking in the Elkhorn area on the North Fork of the Santiam River in Marion County so he could take pictures of the waterfalls
“I hiked in a couple miles and shot some photos and the rain started coming in,” Hancock said.
As he was headed back to his car he came across a black bear, lying lifeless along the side of the trail.
“It was cold, raining, just sitting there in the rain not moving, not breathing,” Hancock said.
For several minutes he watched the young cub to see if its mother would come for it or if it would get up and take off, but that didn’t happen. In the next few minutes, he made the decision to step in. He scooped up the bear and headed for his car.
There he raced to find cell service. During that time giving the bear rescue puffs, trying to keep it alive and breathing, but the cub kept struggling.
“I kind of held him and right as I was kind of thinking maybe I should go put him back in the woods, he took a breath,” Hancock said.
Hancock then took to Facebook with a picture of him and cub. He pleaded for help on where a good place to take the bear would be. He eventually settled on the Turtle Animal Center in Salem where vets agreed to take a look at the young black bear.
“She mentioned how emaciated, and malnourished and dehydrated he was, you know, so he probably hadn’t eaten for several days,” Hancock said.
Vets would give the bear, known as Elkhorn, fluids and stay with it through the night.
In a statement to KPTV, the center wrote:
Yesterday evening we received a malnourished, lethargic black bear cub. The cub, nicknamed “Elkhorn,” received several rounds of sub cutaneous fluids. His hydration and body temperature finally normalized around 2a.m. Nearly 12 hours later, he is showing significant signs of improvement!
Elkhorn was transferred to a wildlife veterinarian with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife where he will have a full health exam, and pending the results, will be placed in the care of an out-of-state center to continue his rehabilitation.
We owe a big THANK YOU to Elkhorn’s hero Corey for finding the distressed cub and safely bringing him to us.
“When I was there he was clawing at his cage and biting his cage and growling and acting like a little ball of fury,” said Hancock.
The bear is now in the hands of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who issued a statement Tuesday as well writing:
The bear is now in the care of ODFW’s wildlife health lab/veterinary staff and doing well. We estimate it is 3.5 months old and weighs 4.1 pounds.
We advise people 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.
From what we know, this bear cub, which is quite young, was picked up trailside. Its mother could have been moving it to a more secure location. We don’t know if it was truly orphaned.
He should have called ODFW, OSP, or wildlife rehabilitator before removing the cub from the wild. He did take it to rehabber but we currently do not have any approved Oregon rehab facilities for holding of bear cubs so we have picked up the cub and will be evaluating it, and determining next steps. Options with bear cub like this are: back to mother in the wild (we are not planning this because chances of reuniting them unlikely), to a rehabber out of state, or to accredited zoo for lifetime in captivity.
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. Often, it’s a death sentence for the animal, which misses the chance to lead a normal life in the wild and also to learn skills from its parent like where to feed, what to eat, how to behave, etc.
Because it’s bad for wildlife, and can be dangerous for people, it’s also against the law. Oregon State Police will be following up with the hiker.
Removing or “capturing” an animal from the wild and keeping it in captivity without a permit is against state law (OAR 635-044-0015), as is transporting many animals. Hancock says he made the right decision and is happy Elkhorn was able to live to see another day.
“I think anybody else you know that would have been in my place in that moment would have done the same thing,” said Hancock.