Return to Cinder: black bear who suffered third degree burns on all four paws in huge forest fire completes rehabilitation to return home
A black bear who suffered third degree burns on ALL FOUR PAWS in a huge forest fire has completed her rehabilitation ahead of being released back into the wild.
Cinder the 18-month-old bear was severely injured in the weeklong Carlton Complex Fire in Washington, USA, in July 2014, which destroyed more than 400 square miles of woodland.
The black bear was found crawling on her elbows – because her paws were so badly hurt – by a resident who returned to the ruins of his fire-destroyed home.
Cinder – named after her horrific injuries – was transported more than 800miles to the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) centre in California to be treated.
Tom Millham, the secretary of LTWC, said: “Fortunately, when Cinder came to us in August everything came together.
“Dr Kevin Willetts – our voluntary veterinarian – took over as he has over 30 years’ experience of dealing with our major medical emergencies.
“Cinder was already a wild bear which meant we didn’t have to do too much rehabilitation.
“It was all about the medical care for her.
“From the day she came in we had her set up on an every other day treatment where we changed the dressings on her wounds.
“For over six weeks we changed the dressings every other day and then we increased the time between them.
“From September 30 we stopped putting dressings on her feet to let them heal on their own.”
The Carlton Complex of fires was started after four separate lightning strikes struck in the Okanogan County.
The fire – the largest in Washington’s history – burned for more than a week, destroying nearly 300 homes and 400square miles of wildlife habitat.
Cinder was airlifted to the LTWC, and three months later of intense medical treatment meant she was ready to be transferred to the Idaho Black Bear Centre in Idaho.
She has been placed next to another one year old cub to get her used to other bears before being re-released back into the Washington wild and also get her paws used to the cold weather.
Tom said: “Our normal procedure means we knock out the bear to make it easier for her to move them.
“She was out within a few minutes and then we put her on a stretcher to weigh her.
“Her weight tripled in the time we looked after her from 39lbs – which is really light for a second year cub.
“When we weighed her the other day she weighed 97lbs with a really fat stomach which is good for her.
“We’re really pleased with the progress she has made.
“She was a perfect lady on the trip – she barely made a sound on the drive.
“Bears will normally sleep for that long, but she kept herself busy with a toy and she had her favourite grapes to feed on.
“Once we got to Idaho it took her a matter of seconds to pop her head out and explore her new surrounds.
“Those four months will toughen up and prepare her paws for when she’s released back into the wild.
“She will also acclimatise with another bear up there which will re-prepare her for when she sees other wild bears back in Washington.
“We’re so happy with the way she’s healed.”
Tom and his wife Cheryl set up LTWC in 1978 after attending a wildlife seminar and have helped heal more than 20,000 animals in their 36 year history.
The animal charity is the only certified wildlife centre to rehabilitate bear cubs under one year in the state of California.