Bandages are off for cub hurt in 416 Fire; now in a pen with other orphaned bears
DEL NORTE — The bandages are off.
A bear cub whose paws were burned during the 416 Fire near Durango has healed and no longer needs therapeutic wraps on her feet, according to a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“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 facility, who has been treating the cub. “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.”
On July 18, the cub was taken from a small pen where she’s been isolated for about three weeks and placed in a large pen with four other bear cubs at CPW’s wildlife rehabilitation center in the San Luis Valley.
In late June the cub was spotted by firefighters wandering alone in an area that had been burned in the fire. They called CPW wildlife officers, who captured the bear June 22; it was taken to the Frisco Creek facility, where treatment began the next day. Other than the burns, the bear was in good physical condition.
Sirochman said the bear now weighs 26 pounds; it weighed only 10 pounds when it was brought in.
Sirochman applied an ointment and wrapped the bear’s feet in fresh bandages every other day. About two weeks after it arrived, the bear began tearing off its bandages.
“When her feet hurt, she left them alone, but as she began to feel better, she became more active and pulled them off,” Sirochman said.
He applied the bandages for the last time on July 11, but continued to keep her isolated and use a “spray-on” bandage.
“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 equipped with logs, platforms and metal den boxes. Human contact is minimized, so the bears will retain their wild instincts. The bears are fed a specially designed feed, but they’re also provided cut branches full of native berries and some carrion. Sirochman hopes to get the bears’ weight to about 90 pounds, so that they’ll have plenty of fat to make it through hibernation.
The bears will continue to be fed a full ration into early December; then, the amount will be reduced and stopped completely by the middle of the month. Without food, the bears will follow their natural instincts and go into hibernation within a few days. The bears are provided hay, which they stuff into the den boxes. Surprisingly, four or five of the bears will all go into the enclosure together.
“They really like to bunch up like that,” Sirochman said.
It’s anticipated that, in January, the bears will be taken to a remote area — when there is plenty of snow on the ground — where wildlife officers will build dens using hay bales and tree branches.
When spring arrives, they’ll emerge from the dens and be on their own to begin their lives as wild bears.
After news of the cub’s rescue, several people made donations to Frisco Creek.
“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.”