Man Saves Drowning Bear Cub from Freezing River

by : Charlie Cocksedge on : 19 Apr 2019 20:46
orphaned bear struggling to swim in river is rescuedorphaned bear struggling to swim in river is rescuedElijah Barkley/Facebook

A man’s fishing trip with some friends turned into an animal rescue when he noticed a bear cub on its own, exhausted and struggling to cross a river.


Elijah Barkley was fishing with his father Darrin and a few friends in West Virginia when they saw the lost cub. They’d already spoken to a forest ranger who told them to look out for a young bear in the area, as it was apparently orphaned and struggling to survive on its own.

Shortly after, they spotted the bear in question, on the bank of the Williams River.

Eli told WHSV how they had just finished fishing and were walking up the river bank when they spotted the young animal.


He said:

We were really worried about him, the bear looked very wore [sic] out and just didn’t look right.

The bear tried to cross the river away from Eli and his dad, but it was too weak to keep its head above the water.

Eli said:

He got out into the current and as soon as his head went under, I guess it was just natural instinct, I didn’t say nothing to nobody. I just sprung out into the water and kinda went for a pretty big swim.

Elijah wrote about the experience on Facebook, saying:

We ended up driving up on this cub that probably was without his mama for a few days as he was very wore out. We tried to corral the cub so that the vet that was there could tranquilize him. The cub ended up going down to the river where he then got in a current and basically gave up. I decided to jump in the cold river and went after the cub.

When I finally got to him, his head was under water. Luckily I was able to carry him out of the river before he drown and get him up on the river bank where the vet was able to tranquilize him and rescue him. The little cub will be rescued for a few months until he’s able to be released back to the wild and survive on his own. One of the wildest adrenaline rushes for sure!!


Joel Rosenthal, one of the rangers who took the cub in after Elijah rescued it, said the bear weighed only 21 pounds, and must’ve been alone ‘for months’ as it was dangerously underweight. He named it William, after the river where they found it, and hopes to get the bear back to full health before releasing it back into the wild.

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Charlie Cocksedge

Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist and sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.

Topics: Animals, Bear, cub, drowning, rescue, river


  1. WHSV

    Man leaps into West Virginia river to save baby bear from drowning