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

Published: Apr. 16, 2019 at 10:56 PM EDT
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For father and son Darrin and Eli Barkley of Broadway, it was a normal fishing trip in West Virginia.

"We had just got done fishing as we were walking up the river bank," Eli told WHSV.

That's when Eli noticed a small bear on the bank of the Williams River.

When the Barkleys had entered the forest, a park ranger had warned them that a black bear cub, abandoned by its mother, had been seen somewhere in the vicinity.

"We were really worried about him," Eli said. "The bear looked very wore out and just didn't look right."

The Barkleys called forest rangers, and bear caretaker Joel Rosenthal, the president of Point of View Farm in Hillsboro, West Virginia, came to help.

"Jumped out of my vehicle," Rosenthal said. "I had equipment to sedate it, but the little bear jumped into the water."

The cub, weak from likely days without its mother, couldn't keep its head above the water.

"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," Eli said. "I just sprung out into the water and kinda went for a pretty big swim."

Eli saved the bear, pulling it from the river alive, and Rosenthal was able to sedate it. The bear, which Rosenthal has named William after the Williams River, is now in his care.

"We'll be keeping updates with Joel and William," Eli told WHSV.

What was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Barkleys is a new lease on life for William the bear.

"I'm very proud, very proud, he did the right thing," Darrin Barkley said of his son's actions.