LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A bear severely burned in the largest wildfire in Colorado history is back in the wild with a second chance at life.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife treated the bear cub for nearly five months after it was burned in the Cameron Peak Fire.
Landowners northwest of Masonville alerted CPW to an injured bear cub. Wildlife officers were able to locate the bear cub on December 11.
CPW said the male cub was suffering from old burns on its feet sustained during the Cameron Peak Fire. Its ears were infected from frostbite, it was covered in cockleburs, was severely dehydrated, weak and starving. The bear cub weighed just 16.3 pounds.
CPW said the bear was released back into the mountains on May 5. The bear now weighs 93 pounds.
“This bear’s drive to survive did most of the work and we just gave it a little boost,” said Kristin Cannon, Deputy Regional Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Northeast region. “This bear went through an awful lot in its first year of life, let’s hope humans can now help keep it wild by not rewarding it with our food sources and lowering its chances of survival.”
“This is an incredibly fortunate bear,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jason Duetsch. “Most wild animals don’t survive the myriad of injuries they are exposed to, let alone be found, captured and treated successfully. He definitely would not have made it through much longer. It is the smallest bear cub I have ever seen at that time of the year, which helped us make the decision to try rehabilitation.”
The bear was taken to CPW’s health lab in Fort Collins. There it was examined by veterinarians Dr. Pauline Nol, Dr. Karen Fox and Duetsch at the health lab, and despite being lethargic, officials believed it had a chance to survive.
“Since the foot injuries on this cub appeared to be healing well, and his other wounds were very treatable, we felt that with supportive care and nourishment his prognosis for recovery was very good,” Dr. Nol said.
Photos below show the burning to its paws while being treated on Dec. 18, 2020 at CPW’s Frisco Creek rehabilitation facility, and one from May 5, 2021, right before its release back into the mountains (photos courtesy of Jason Clay/CPW).
UPDATE: The recovery of the bear’s burned paw. Picture taken May, 2021.