Wythe County Officials and Firefighters Nab PETA Awards for Saving Black Bear Cub From Fire


For Immediate Release:
March 27, 2024

David Perle 202-483-7382

Wythe County, Va. – For helping to save an infant black bear from an active brush fire on March 14, PETA is recognizing Assistant Wythe County Administrator Matt Hankins and Wythe County Department of Emergency Services Director Chuck Parnell and his staff with Compassionate Action Awards and the Ivanhoe Volunteer Fire Department with a Compassionate Fire Department Award.

Matt Hankins with the rescued bear cub.
Photo: Ivanhoe Volunteer Fire Department

Hankins, a former volunteer firefighter, was at the scene in his role as acting chief of emergency services when he learned that witnesses had seen an adult bear fleeing the area and that one or more bear cubs might still be in danger. When Hankins heard yelping, he began to search with several firefighters and located the tiny cub under a tree. He pulled the cub from a brush pile and “carried him out of there like a baby.” The cub is being cared for at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro.

Hankins told PETA that he and the firefighters would have preferred to leave the cub alone to reunite with his mother, but that given the extent of the fire and the commotion of rescue vehicles and human activity, she may not have been able to find her cub—if she returned at all. “It was certainly probably one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of, and I’ve done some cool things in my career,” said Hankins, emphasizing that the rescue was a team effort.

“This bear cub, who almost certainly would have perished in the fire or starved to death, is alive today thanks to these individuals’ heroic actions,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA encourages everyone to follow their example by acting swiftly when they see any animal in danger.”

Hankins, Parnell and his staff, and the Ivanhoe Volunteer Fire Department will receive framed certificates and delicious vegan chocolates from PETA.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.


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