When Hancock decided to rescue the baby bear, he risked being attacked by a mother bear or being sent to jail. But this hero took the risk, believing the cub was in dire straits, regardless of the consequences.
“When I chose to pick up baby Elkhorn, I ran because—in the moment—it felt like there was a big risk involved,” Corey Hancock wrote on his Facebook page. “I was, in essence, wagering my life to help that cub.”
Corey Hancock saw a dying baby bear left alone off the trail, while he was hiking in the Elkhorn Mountain region, Oregon.
“He wasn’t two feet off the trail, laying there on his back, seeming by all appearances to be dead. His lips were blue. His eyes were open, but unmoving and hazy,” wrote Hancock. “The rain was pouring down, drenching his belly. I might have seen a shallow breath.”
Fearing the mother bear might be around nearby, the 41-year-old photographer observed the little bear from behind a tree to make sure it was still alive.
“Minutes passed, with the rain pouring down on his almost-lifeless body. He twitched his arms a couple of times. This was the only indication I had that he was still alive,” wrote Hancock. “I knew he wouldn’t survive much longer under these conditions.”
Hancock told the BBC: “I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by nature—you know you’re not supposed to pick up wildlife but this wasn’t a typical situation. He was extremely emaciated—it was pretty easy to determine he hadn’t had food for several days.”
With his knowledge of wildlife, he knew that black bears can smell humans from 500 yards. In other words, rescuing the baby cub meant risking his own life. But there was no way he could leave the poor creature there to die.
“I thought about my own baby boy back home. The bear looked so much like an infant. Was I just going to stand there and watch it die in the rain? No … I needed to do something,” he wrote.
He decided to take action. He rushed to the dying baby bear, wrapped him up in his shirt, and immediately ran to his car, which was a mile-and-a-half away.
“The whole time, I was sure a raging mother bear would come for me,” he wrote of the daring rescue.
He performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the cub and drove off the mountain. As soon as he got a mobile phone signal, he immediately asked his Facebook friends where the cub could get medical help.
When he finally found the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center, they agreed to take the black bear cub, who was named “Elkhorn” after the place where Hancock found him.
At the center, they managed to resuscitate the dying baby bear, regulating his hydration and temperature. He showed much improvement the next day and was transferred to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
A spokeswoman for ODFW told Oregon Live: “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.”
Hancock could have been fined $6,000 or even sent to a jail for one year for removing wildlife away from its habitat, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. But later, Oregon State Police confirmed he would not face criminal charges due to the circumstances.
“My hope is only that Elkhorn be allowed to survive, and to thrive, somewhere among us … preferably a place where he can have a rich life experience,” wrote Hancock.
“And I would do it again. I bet most of you would too.”