A black bear cub found emaciated and dehydrated along an Oregon trail is on the road to recovery after a hiker drove it to a wildlife rehab center -- but the hiker himself is taking heat for taking the matter into his own hands.
Corey Hancock, 41, said he spotted the cub while he was heading back from a hike Monday evening, Fox 12 reported. After waiting around 10 minutes for the mother, he took the cub to Turtle Ridge Wildlife Rehab, which was closed at the time but opened up to accept the bear.
While his heart was in the right place, wildlife officials and advocates are urging people to not “rescue” baby animals because they might not actually need rescuing.
“We advise people to never assume a young animal is orphaned unless they saw the mother die,” Michelle Dennehy, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) told the Oregonian/OregonLive. “It is quite common for young to temporarily be left alone in the wild.”
She added: “Removing young animals from the wild is not a good thing to do for them. These animals miss the chance to learn important survival skills from their parent.”
However, Hancock stands behind his decision to take the cub to the rehab center.
“It was laying on its back, barely moving. It twisted a couple times,” he told the Oregonian/OregonLive. “Its paws weren’t moving. It wasn’t breathing. It was dying.”
Charles Harmansky-Johnson of Turtle Ridge said the bear, which has been nicknamed “Elkhorn” is being treated and has already shown significant signs of improvement.
He called Hancock a “hero.”
ODFW currently has custody of the cub and after a full medical exam, it will be sent to an out-of-state facility to continue rehabilitation.
There are no licensed bear rehab facilities in the state of Oregon.
Dennehy said animals taken from their wild habitats have a tough and long road ahead, which could include a lifetime of captivity in a zoo.