DEL NORTE – The bandages are off! A bear cub whose paws were burned during the 416 Fire near Durango has healed very well and no longer needs therapeutic wraps on her feet, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
“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 then captured the bear on June 22; it was taken to the Frisco Creek facility where treatment started the next day. Other than the burns, the bear was in good physical condition.
Sirochman explained that the bear now weighs 26 pounds; it was just 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 started 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 still kept her isolated, continuing to 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 that is equipped with logs, platforms and metal den boxes. Human contact is minimized so that the bears 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 which measure about five-feet square. 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.
And when spring comes they’ll emerge from the dens and be on their own to start their lives again 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.”
For more information about bears and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, go to: http://cpw.state.co.us/, and http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/Donate.aspx.