Hiker finds ‘almost lifeless’ baby bear, uses mouth-to-mouth to help save it

SALEM, Ore. — A man has received praise and criticism after he saved an “almost lifeless” baby bear while hiking in the Pacific Northwest last week. His story has since gone viral.

In a long Facebook post describing his actions, Corey Hancock said he was miles into his hike when he saw the cub “laying there on his back, seeming by all appearances to be dead.”

“His lips were blue. His eyes were open, but unmoving and hazy,” Hancock wrote. “The rain was pouring down, drenching his belly. I might have seen a shallow breath.”

Knowing the momma bear could be near, Hancock watched the cub struggle in the rain. He knew he had to do something.

“I sprang to action, rushing to the cub and quickly wrapping him up like a baby in my flannel shirt. I then placed him half-way into a rain-proof stuff-sack, to try and keep at least some of the moisture from soaking through his blanket,” he wrote.

Hancock added that he had to give the bear mouth-to-mouth because the cub was having trouble breathing.

He took the cub, which he named Elkhorn, to Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center, where it was cared for before being taken by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Officials determined Elkhorn was starving and dehydrated. The cub was warmed up with a heating pad and given fluids to help rehydrate him.

However, officials said Hancock should have never moved the cub.

“We advise people to never assume a young animal is orphaned unless they saw the mother die,” Michelle Dennehy with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife told KOIN. “It is quite common for young to temporarily be left alone in 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. Often, it’s a death sentence for the animal, which misses the chance to lead a normal life in the wild.”

But based on Elkhorn’s condition, Hancock believes that wasn’t the case. He believes the cub would have been dead within hours had he not saved him.

“The reality is that Elkhorn was not a cub who’d been waiting while his mother ran out for groceries,” Hancock wrote. “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.”

Moving a young animal is illegal in Oregon, but police did not charge Hancock because he took the animal to help it without knowledge the mother might have been near.