Let’s play a game. A game of “What If….”I’ll give you a scenario and you tell me WHAT you would do IF you were presented with it in real life.
You come upon a baby animal that appears to be dead or dying. You know that there’s a chance you can save it. But, attempting to do so could mean that you will die. Or, you could go to jail.
What would you do? How long would it take you to make up your mind?
Hiker Corey Hancock was presented with that exact scenario recently. While hiking in an Oregon woods recently, he came upon a baby bear lying in the path.
The baby appeared to be dead, or dying. It was soaked by the cold pouring rain. His eyes were open, but glazed and hazy.
Hancock admits now that it took him a few seconds to make his decision. After all, as an experienced hiker he knew all the rules.
Getting close to the baby might bring the wrath of a grieving mother bear down upon him. And, if he took the bear with him to find medical help, he could incur a huge fine and even jail time.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says that the penalty for interfering with wildlife can mean $6,000 in fines and over a year in jail time. They tend to take the rules pretty seriously, so Hancock knew that he had to accept his potential fate if he wanted to help the baby.
Thoughts of his own baby boy, waiting on his dad back at home, caused Hancock to spring into action. He knew that, even if it meant he would never see him again, he would want someone to do whatever they could to save his boy’s life.
He quickly knelt beside the baby bear and evaluated him closer. He wrote about the experience later on his Facebook page.
“[It was] laying there on his back, seeming by all appearances to be dead. 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.”
He gathered the baby up under his coat and began the long run to his car. The entire time the back of his neck prickled. He could imagine the hot breath of a mother bear as she realized that her baby was being bear-napped.
Thinking every step might be his last put wings on his feet. He sprinted to his car where he laid the baby on the seat and began to do CPR.
Before long, the baby sputtered a bit and its eyes flickered. Hancock threw his car into gear and raced towards the nearest vet. The baby relaxed in his arms, feeling very much like a human baby
.“I had to pull over and administer mouth-to-mouth one more time along our route, when the cub seemed entirely lifeless. Somehow though, he managed to survive, even while his single breaths came at almost one-minute intervals,” Hancock told his Facebook followers.
Sadly, none of the area vets he carried the baby to would agree to treat the baby bear. None of them would agree to care for a wild creature, even one in a life-or-death situation.
Finally, Hancock drove up to Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center that had a resident care-giver. At last! Someone who cared enough to perhaps break a few rules to save someone’s life.
In an effort of full disclosure, Hancock had contact the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife to tell them what he had done. They were waiting at the facility when he and the baby arrived.
They declined to press charges. Hancock had documented his entire experience with the bear, and it was obvious his intentions were pure. The baby was still in apparent distress and Hancock was doing everything possible to save its life.
A rudimentary checkup found no injuries that required immediate care. The first order of business was to get the baby warm and well fed. Hancock had made a great start on warming, by keeping the baby close to his body, under his jacket.
Hancock named the little bear “Elkhorn” after the area where he had been found. He was almost brought to tears watching little Elkhorn greedily take a bottle of warm milk. After being fed and getting fluids to combat his dehydration, the little guy began to move about a bit.
He even gave a big bear baby grin a time or two, which warmed Hancock’s heart.
Little Elkhorn wasn’t completely out of the woods yet, so to speak. But, at least he had a chance at survival now. Something he would not have had if Hancock had not risked everything to get him to someone who could care for him.
After baby Elkhorn was fed and warm, he nestled into his warm blanket and drifted off to a safe and happy sleep. Hancock gave him one last pat and a kiss on his head for luck.
Then he drove away to go hug his own son, grateful to know that he too was warm and safe and waiting for him.
He thinks sometimes of the mama bear, and wishes he could tell her that her baby is OK. Hopefully, she was watching from the bushes and realized that her baby had found a savior.