Surrounded by the serenity of nature, the fisherman was enjoying a springtime evening away from the hustle and bustle. The Pennsylvania lake was still except for what looked like a log nearby splashing along in the current. Then suddenly, with a start, the angler realized that it was no log – and that it wasn’t splashing; it was flailing. He therefore had to act fast before it was too late.
Brad Meck is a keen fisherman from the small town of Everett in Pennsylvania. And on Sunday, May 21, 2017, he packed his rod for Raystown Lake in the state’s Huntingdon County in pursuit of his pastime. So it was that Meck found himself in the peace and quiet of the reservoir’s James Creek seeking his catch of the day.
However, when he first set out that day, there is no way that Meck could have known what the size of his biggest catch would be – and it wasn’t a fish that disturbed the peace of the evening. When the movement in the water first caught his eye, though, the seasoned angler dismissed the brown object as a log floating along the lake.
There was no reason to believe otherwise; after all, Raystown Lake is surrounded by wooded areas, so it was a fair assumption to make. As the supposed log drew closer, however, Meck started to doubt his initial guess. Yes, the object seemed to be covered in fur, meaning it was probably one of the locale’s indigenous aquatic animals.
A couple of days later, the fisherman spoke to ABC News about the encounter. “I saw it coming towards me; I thought it was just a beaver or something like that,” he recalled. But when the mystery object came more closely into view, Meck saw that he had been totally mistaken.
The angler just could not believe what he had discovered bobbing along on the lake. “It got closer, and I looked at it and thought, ‘Holy crap!’” he remembered. It was a member of the indigenous wildlife, alright – but not one you would likely expect to see struggling to tread water in the middle of a lake.
What Meck had spotted in the water was actually a brown bear cub, and the little fellow was in serious trouble. In fact, the fisherman told ABC News that by that stage the exhausted cub could only just keep its snout raised above the waterline. Meck also described how the bear seemed to be asking for help.
In his TV interview, Meck explained how the bear cub appeared to be swimming towards his boat. It was as if the poor little animal was asking him to come to its aid. The angler, then, looked at the helpless baby bear and knew instinctively that there was only one thing he could do in good conscience.
Meck prepared himself to reach down and scoop the struggling creature out of the water. What’s more, it was only split seconds before he made contact with the animal that he suddenly had doubts about what he was doing. Was he really going to pick up a bear cub?
“Just as I was about ready to grab it, I thought to myself, ‘Please don’t bite me,’” Meck recalled. However, it would seem that the cub was just happy to be rescued. It definitely showed no interest in sinking its teeth into the man who had saved its life.
“It was as calm as can be. It didn’t show any hostility towards me,” Meck told ABC News. Even so, the fisherman could be forgiven if he was somewhat unsettled by the encounter.
Subsequently, Meck had a decision to make. He had a wild bear on his boat and no idea what to do with it. Not only that, but there was no phone reception out on Raystown Lake, so he was unable to consult an expert for advice.
One thought did cross Meck’s mind, however. “I [saw] the direction it was swimming in,” he explained. And because of this, the fisherman thought the most likely explanation for the cub being stranded out in the creek was that it had lost its mother while crossing the lake. He therefore set off in the same direction in the hope of putting the baby bear safely back on its original path.
“I kind of figured maybe the mom swam across first,” Meck said. “And because the baby was so little, it was struggling. I just figured she’d be up on the bank somewhere,” he concluded. With that in mind, the fisherman travelled across the water.
On the other side of the lake, Meck deposited the bear cub safely back on terra firma, and it immediately went off on its way, pausing only to glance back at the fisherman who had saved its life. With that look, it was almost as if the little animal was thanking Meck for his big-hearted act.
However, although the fisherman’s actions saved the bear from drowning, state officials don’t recommend that others follow his lead. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has asked the public to avoid touching wild animals, even in similar circumstances. Why? Because it is possible that Meck was putting himself in terrible danger.
Sure, the bear cub was docile enough, but – just as the angler thought – mommy bear could well have been close by. Brown bear attacks on humans are more common when mothers are fighting to protect their cubs. Meck, then, could well have been seen as a threat by this cub’s panicked mother.
The commission’s reasoning may also be to prevent possible bear urbanization. Although brown bears prefer the wilderness, if they get too comfortable around humans then they will lose their natural wariness. This could in turn result in bears raiding urban areas in search of food, and that would obviously present a danger.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has asked for anyone in a similar situation to call it for help. For his part, as he stated, Meck had no phone signal out on the lake when he faced his dilemma, and he reacted on instinct. And although he doesn’t consider himself a hero, many animal lovers would disagree.
“[The cub] was going to drown if I didn’t help it,” Meck told ABC News. “I never thought anything else other than get it and help it and take it to shore.” His ideal outcome was for the bear to find its mother. “Hopefully, they can get reunited again,” he concluded. Here’s to the brave and compassionate fisherman’s hopes being answered.