By Ann McCreary
Cinder the bear appears to be doing well in her new home after being released into the wild almost four months ago.
A victim of the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire, Cinder was discovered — emaciated and unable to walk on severely burned paws — in French Creek after the wildfire swept through the area.
The bear cub drew international attention after she was rescued by state wildlife officials and underwent months of treatment at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in California, followed by rehabilitation at Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation near Boise.
When her caretakers decided she had recovered enough to return to the wild, she was set free on June 3 — 11 months after she was rescued — in a densely forested area about 30 miles north of Leavenworth.
“She’s doing great so far. I’m so glad I picked this release spot, as the drought and fires would have placed her in a no-win situation” in many other areas of north central Washington, said Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Beausoleil organized the release of Cinder and another bear cub, called Kaulana, who was found orphaned in the Leavenworth area. The bears had developed an affinity for each other while they were kept in the same enclosure at the rehabilitation center last winter.
The bears were fitted with GPS radio collars so wildlife officials can track their movements. Cinder initially traveled several miles from the release site but returned and has remained there, said Beausoleil. Kaulana is also in the same general area, he said.
Wildlife officials hope to capture the bears periodically to replace the collars before they stop transmitting.
Cinder will be 3 years old and Kaulana will be 2 years old in January. Beausoleil said Cinder will be able to reproduce at about age 4, and he hopes to be able to visit her in her winter den at that time.
Because of her long and painful recovery and her feisty personality, Cinder has been described as a “symbol of hope” for residents of the Methow Valley in the aftermath of the Carlton Complex Fire.