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US hiker given warning for rescuing 'abandoned' bear cub

BBC News logo BBC News 31/03/2017

Baby bear wrapped up in blanket: Mr. Hancock said it "wasn't a typical situation" and he would rescue the bear again.

Mr. Hancock said it "wasn't a typical situation" and he would rescue the bear again.
© Corey Hancock

A hiker in the U.S. has avoided criminal charges after rescuing what appeared to be an abandoned black bear cub from an Oregon trail.

Corey Hancock, 41, spotted the bear lying on his back alone when returning from a hike on Monday evening.

He said he believes the malnourished bear cub's mother had purposefully left him or been shot by hunters.

It was initially suggested he could face charges for removing the cub from his habitat.

"I hid behind a tree and made sure there wasn't a Momma bear anywhere," he said.

After the cub stopped moving entirely, he took the decision to "pack him up and make a run for the car" - wrapping the cub up in his flannel shirt.

"He was totally unresponsive: I tried tickling his feet. messing with his ears and he didn't move at all."

Mr. Hancock says he gave the cub CPR then drove 20 minutes to get mobile phone signal on the highway - all with the bear struggling to breathe in his arms.

"I just kept talking to him and wiggling him - every time I thought he was going to die, he took another breath."

As soon as he got signal, he desperately asked his Facebook friends for advice on where to take him for medical help.

Eventually Turtle Ridge Wildlife Shelter agreed to take the "malnourished, lethargic" bear in. They managed to stabilize the cub and regulate his hydration and temperature levels.

Within 12 hours he showed significant signs of improvement and was transferred to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

Mr. Hancock named the cub Elkhorn, after the location he found him.

The bear is expected to make a full recovery, and will be transferred to a full-time rehabilitation centre.

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."

The latest incident comes less than a year after tourists at the famous Yellowstone National Park sparked anger by placing a newborn bison in the boot of their car - an action that led to the animal being put down.

But Mr. Hancock says does not regret his decision.

"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 said.

"He was extremely emaciated - it was pretty easy to determine he hadn't had food for several days.

"He'd been left for dead."

Mr. Hancock says he is thankful to ODFW for updating him on the cub's progress in recovery.

"He's doing really well - he's running around and acting like a normal baby bear!"

Oregon State Police confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Hancock would not face criminal charges for taking wildlife outside of its habitat, due to the circumstances.

Asked whether he would do the same again, he told the BBC: "Without a doubt - I'm a father, I have three kids of my own.

"I don't think anyone who was a parent or a good-natured human being could walk away from another mammal taking his last breath."

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