Elijah Barkley was out on a fishing trip with some of his friends and family in West Virginia, when the most unexpected thing happened.
He and his friends were travelling back to camp from the river, when they were stopped by a forest ranger, who was with a bear handler. They asked to be on the lookout for a young bear in the area.
Soon enough, on their way to camp, Barkley and his friends spotted the lone bear.
“He looked as if he was just completely wore out or something was wrong, because we pulled up closer to him and he wouldn’t move,” Barkley told The Dodo in an interview. “He kinda just stayed there.”
Apparently, the cub was an orphan after losing his mother and is “faring poorly on his own,” according to The Dodo’s report.
Jose Rosenthal, the bear handler, runs wildlife rehab center ‘Point of View Farm, Inc.’ and he had been trying to track down the cub after several reports from concerned citizens alarmed them.
Barkley found the bear on time, but before Rosenthal got the chance to sedate him, the cub was too exhausted while trying to cross the river, so his paws gave out and he was beginning to drown. Barkley suddenly leapt into the freezing river.
“I saw his head go down underwater, and that’s when I made the instinctive decision to run after the bear,” Barkley told The Dodo. “My mind was solely thinking of getting to that bear as fast as I could that I didn’t think about the risks.”
Barkley grabbed the bear by the back of its neck and hauled it to the shore. The bear looked lifeless, but after a few minutes, the bear opened its eyes and was conscious again.
“I immediately carried him over to [Rosenthal] so he could check things out,” Barkley said.
The cub is now regaining his strength in Rosenthal’s rehab center, and when he returns to full health, he will be returned to the wild.
“He is very small and starved, but we believe he will do great,” Rosenthal told the Dodo in an interview. “He will gain weight and then be placed in another pen with other cubs from last year that lost their mothers to hunters. We hope we can release him this summer.”