By Ann McCreary
Along with many of Washington’s black bears, Cinder has emerged from hibernation at an Idaho rehabilitation center where she spent the winter, preparing for her return to the Methow Valley.
She is reported to be making continued progress in her recovery from severely burned paws she sustained as a result of the Carlton Complex Fire last summer.
“She’s doing great. Her coat is looking really good. She’s moving all around her enclosure and she’s been climbing all round,” said Sally Maughan, founder and president of Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation (IBBR) near Boise.
Cinder was brought to IBBR last fall after spending the summer being treated for burns to her feet, chest and face at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in California. She was transported by private plane to Lake Tahoe after she was found, barely able to walk, in French Creek about two weeks after wildfires roared through the area.
Cinder was emaciated when she was discovered, and spent many weeks with her paws bandaged, while her caregivers nursed her back to health. Her story generated international attention as her progress was followed by news media and social media.
Maughan said Cinder spent about two months hibernating in a den in her enclosure at IBBR, emerging a couple of weeks ago. She is sharing the enclosure with two other bears, including another cub from Washington state.
Cinder is expected to be released in June, provided her paws have healed adequately. She will be tranquilized and examined by a veterinarian before her release, Maughan said. State bear specialist Rich Beausoleil has said previously that she will be returned to the Methow Valley.
“The pads on her feet appear to be toughening up because she’s moving around a lot,” Maughan said. “We aren’t seeing any signs of sensitivity.” Cinder is climbing wood structures in her enclosure and digging in the dirt without any problems, she said.
She is also interacting with the other two bears, which will help her in adapting to the wild, Maughan said.
“She’s being a terrible flirt with big Koa. He’s a gorgeous bear,” Maughan said. “Cinder and Koa have had a few encounters, some nose to nose, sometimes they just follow the other around and at one point they had the start of a chase game going,” she said.
Only 39 pounds when she was rescued last summer, Cinder now weighs about 120 pounds, Maughan estimated. She is slightly more than 2 years old.
She’s eating grapes, fish, venison and dog food, Maughan said. She is also being fed yogurt and cottage cheese with a gel that is intended to strengthen her damaged claws.
At both the Lake Tahoe and Idaho rehabilitation facilities, Cinder earned a reputation for her feisty, if not cranky, personality.
“She is just adorable. But she has a line and you don’t cross it. If you spend too much time near her she’ll woof and clap her lips. She’ll approach as if to say, ‘You’ve been here long enough,’” Maughan said.