Injured bear cub rescued at Colorado fire expected to be OK
DURANGO, Colo. (AP) — An orphaned bear cub with painful burns on her paws was rescued from a Colorado wildfire and is being nursed back to health, state officials said Friday.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers believe she’ll recover well enough to be released this winter.
“When the bear was brought in, I wasn’t sure if it was going to make it,” said Michael Sirochman, a Parks and Wildlife veterinary technician. “But she’s responding very well to treatment and by winter we believe we’ll be able to return her to the wild.”
It was an encouraging bit of news amid a disruptive and dangerous fire season in Colorado.
The wildfire that injured the cub had burned 65 square miles (168 square kilometers) near Durango in the southwestern corner of the state. More than 2,000 homes were evacuated at one point but those residents were allowed to return home.
Another wildfire had burned about 22 square miles (57 square kilometers) outside Fort Garland in the southern part of the state. Residents of 350 homes were ordered to evacuate, and authorities said an unknown number of structures have been destroyed.
At least three other fires were burning in Colorado Friday.
The orphaned bear cub is 4 or 5 months old and weighed just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) when she was rescued.
Firefighters spotted her wandering alone in a burned-over area north of Durango last week. They notified Parks and Wildlife on June 22 because there was no sign of her mother. Officers don’t know how the mother and cub became separated.
Wildlife officers found her in a tree and immobilized her with a tranquilizer dart and took her to a state wildlife facility.
Sirochman, the manager of the facility, said the cub’s burns were severe. She’s being treated with salve, bandages, antibiotics and pain medication, and is eating solid food and a liquid milk replacement.
She spends most of her time lying on her side to keep her weight off the painful wounds, Sirochman said.
Caretakers are minimizing their contact with the cub so she won’t become accustomed to humans, which would make it difficult for her to survive in the wild.
After she heals, she’ll be placed in an enclosure with four other cubs at the wildlife facility. They could be released this winter.
“We have good luck returning young bears to the wild,” Sirochman said. “We’re very strict about minimizing human contact.”
Two adult bears that suffered third-degree burns in a California wildfire last year recovered and were released back into the wild.