By Ann McCreary
Cinder the bear now has bare feet.
After two months of treatment for badly burned paws, the bear cub — a survivor of the Carlton Complex Fire — is walking without bandages on her feet.
Cinder was flown to the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) rehabilitation facility on Aug. 4, after she was discovered lying in a field up French Creek, barely able to walk on her severely burned paws.
She has been treated with antibiotics, pain medication and regular bandage changes. Extremely underweight when she arrived, Cinder has also been dining on fresh fish and fruit to help her gain weight.
Last week, Cinder’s veterinarian decided her paws had healed sufficiently to remove her bandages, said Tom Millham, secretary/treasurer of the Lake Tahoe treatment facility.
“Everything is going well. We haven’t noticed any excessive licking, or blood from her paws,” Millham said. “She’s walking fine.” She is also growing claws to replace ones that were lost, he said.
Cinder has doubled her weight since she arrived at LTWC, Millham said. She weighed only about 39 pounds in August — about half what a second-year bear cub (born in January 2013) should weigh. She now tops 80 pounds, Millham said.
Her healing paws and weight gain mean that Cinder may be ready soon to be transferred to a rehabilitation center closer to her Methow Valley home to prepare her for release back into the wild.
“We’re still a couple weeks away,” Millham said.
The cub is still getting a daily dose of pain medication tucked into a muffin covered with maple syrup. But otherwise she is enjoying being left alone and not having to be immobilized to have her wounds treated and bandages changed, Millham said.
“We’ve not been in [her enclosure] to disturb her other than to clean and feed,” Millham said. That suits Cinder just fine, because she has shown little sign of affection for her “pesky” human caretakers, he said.
“She’s a nasty bear. And that’s good,” Millham said.
He said LTWC will work with Rich Beausoleil, bear specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, to determine where Cinder will go to complete rehabilitation.
Two possibilities for rehabilitation are the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood, Washington and Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation in Garden City, Idaho, Millham said.
Two weeks after firestorms swept through the valley, Cinder was discovered by Steve Love, who saw her limping toward his home on French Creek on July 31. The cub lay down in a grassy area, holding her severely burned paws in the air. Love fed her apricots and water, and called state wildlife officials.
After providing initial treatment for burns to her paws, head and chest, wildlife officials arranged to fly Cinder to Lake Tahoe for further care.
Millham said the veterinarian plans to examine Cinder on Thursday (Oct. 9), and will be able to determine then how soon she will be ready to begin her journey home.