An orphaned bear cub whose feet were badly burned in the 416 fire north of Durango is one of the recent victims of wildfires that are raging across Colorado this month.
The 416 fire ignited June 1 and has since burned 41,617 acres. It was 37 percent contained as of Saturday morning, according to InciWeb, a national interagency incident information system.
Two and a half weeks into the fire, on June 18, firefighters noticed the young bear wandering alone through a burned area on the south end of the blaze and, after a couple of days of seeing the bear without a mother, called Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Wildlife officers found the cub in a tree June 22 and immobilized it with a tranquilizer dart, the agency said Friday in a release. The bear had burns on the bottom of its feet, but otherwise appeared to be healthy.
The bear was brought to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Frisco Creek wildlife facility near Del Norte in the San Luis Valley. Veterinarians applied a medical salve dressing to the bear’s feet and injected her with antibiotics to prevent infection.
“When the bear was brought in, I wasn’t sure if it was going to make it,” said Michael Sirochman, manager of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Frisco Creek facility. “But she’s responding very well to treatment and by winter we believe we’ll be able to return her to the wild.”
Officials expect to release the bear for hibernation in late fall, when officers will build a den close to the area where the cub was found. The bear should emerge in the spring, according to the natural hibernation cycle.
Once fully healed, she will be placed in an enclosure at the facility with four other cubs, where they will grow and fatten up through the summer and fall.
While wildlife can be injured in forest fires, most are able to flee the flames, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement.
When possible, Colorado Parks and Wildlife responds to reports of injured animals during forest fires. After forest fires, fish and other aquatic life that live in mountain streams are most susceptible due to the possibility of ash flows from burned hillsides.