An orphaned bear cub whose paws were burned in the 416 Fire has almost fully recovered.
“The burns have healed nicely, and at this point, I’d say her paws are about 95 percent healed,” said Michael Sirochman, manager of the Frisco Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, in a prepared statement.
“She still has a few nicks on her feet that we’re keeping an eye on, so we’ll probably examine her a few more times during the next month.”
Last month, firefighters spotted a female bear cub wandering alone in an area burned by the 416 Fire, which started June 1 and ripped through about 54,000 acres of mostly San Juan National Forest land north of Durango.
When it became apparent the cub’s mother was nowhere to be found, firefighters contacted Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which captured the baby bear on June 22 and took her to the Frisco Creek facility in the San Luis Valley.
The cub had suffered extensive burns on her paws but was in otherwise good shape. After weeks of treatment, she is almost fully recovered. When she arrived, she was 10 pounds. Now, she weighs 26 pounds.
Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for Parks and Wildlife, said bandages were applied for the last time on July 11, but the cub was still kept in an isolated pen as a precautionary measure.
On Wednesday, the cub was placed in a large pen with four other bear cubs.
“She’s only been with the other bears for a couple of days, but she appears to be settling in with them,” Sirochman said.
The cubs are kept in a large, fully enclosed pen that is equipped with logs, platforms and metal den boxes, Lewandowski said.
“Human contact is minimized so that the bears retain their wild instincts,” he said. “The bears are fed a specially designed feed, but they’re also provided cut branches full of native berries and some carrion.”
The idea is to get the bears’ weight to about 90 pounds so they will have plenty of fat to make it through hibernation. CPW will then reduce the amount of feeding in December so the bears’ natural instincts to hibernate kicks in.
In January, CPW will use hay bales and tree branches to create human-made dens in a remote area and place the bears inside. Then in the spring, the bears will wake up from hibernation and rely on their natural instincts to survive in the wild.
Sirochman said the rehabilitation center began receiving donations soon after the cub’s rescue made news worldwide.
“The contributions were a total surprise, and we’re very grateful for and appreciate the support,” Sirochman said. “The money will be put to good use here.”