There was an emotional reunion in a Duncan hospital room on Thursday as a sore and exhausted Bear Henry embraced their mom after surviving more than two months in the remote Vancouver Island wilderness.
“I’m really grateful to the creator for giving [them] the courage and the strength to keep going,” said Bear’s aunt Rose Henry.
Bear’s family had hoped for a happy reunion but after so long had come to terms with the fact it may never happen.
“Towards the end I was going through those stages of grieving and accepting the fact we might not be bringing him back alive,” Henry said.
Bear Henry was last seen on their way to join family at the Fairy Creek logging protest on Nov. 27, 2021, saying they’d be back in a week or so.
But that week became a month, then two, leaving Bear’s family and community heartbroken and desperate to find them.
“I keep hoping for word. I keep hoping for a phone call, ‘sorry to worry you, mom. I’m here,'” Bear’s mom Eileen Henry said at a Jan. 7 vigil in Victoria.
Everyone from civilian search crews to RCMP set out in the rough backwoods around Fairy Creek trying to find Bear.
“It was excessive search efforts that took place over the last couple of months that’s for sure, it included search and rescue, helicopter search, ground search so it was very exhaustive,” said BC RCMP Corp. Alex Berube.
But conditions in the area were treacherous. So when Bear Henry showed up at a Lake Cowichan coffee shop Wednesday, 60 pounds lighter but otherwise in good spirits, jaws dropped.
“I was back there for three months apparently, I got picked up by two workers, they work for Gemini Falling,” Bear can be heard saying in a video posted to Facebook.
Gemini Falling Contractors couldn’t be reached for comment but Teal Jones issued a statement saying, “it’s good news that Bear Henry has been found safe and sound, and gratifying our contractors were able to help. When Bear Henry was reported missing we distributed their image to all employees and contractors working in the area and asked them to keep their eyes open for any evidence of them.”
The camper van Bear was driving apparently hit a washout in the road, shut off and came to rest in a ravine. Stranded, and lost, Bear survived on a few cans of beans and peanut butter but that ran out in December.
“The last few weeks surviving on stream water and snow to keep themselves hydrated,” said Rose Henry.
Bear was reunited Wednesday afternoon with the people who helped try to find them, including the RCMP officer in charge of their file.
And on Thursday, from their hospital bed, Bear posted a message of thanks saying, “you’re [sic] love and prayers kept me alive, and helped me walk the 15 hours I spent pushing my body beyond its limits…I’m thankful I pushed myself out of my van and onto that logging road. It was grulling [sic], painful, but needed.”
Bear will now focus on recovering from the physical and emotional trauma of the past two-and-a-half months and taking in all the love from incredibly grateful family and friends.