Cubs from Twenty-Five Mile Fire also being treated
A young bear cub seriously injured by the Cedar Creek Fire west of Mazama earlier this summer is recovering well at the Lynnwood-based PAWS animal rehabilitation center, officials from the organization announced Aug. 31.
PAWS held a press conference on the bear and two other cubs burned in the Twenty-Five Mile Fire near Chelan, along with Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.
The Cedar Creek bear is a female black bear cub roughly 7 months old and about 13 pounds when rescued. She was found alone by firefighters, who watched her until a bear and cougar specialist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) arrived.
“She’s an absolute trooper,” said Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen, PAWS wildlife veterinarian, at the press conference. “Her resilience is inspiring, and in spite of all of the trauma and stress she has endured, she’s acting as much like a normal bear cub as she can — eating, sleeping and even starting to play.”
Rich Beausoleil, WDFW bear and cougar specialist, said he suspects the small cub was unable to keep up with her mother or fled up a tree and got caught in the fire.
Once at PAWS, the cub was given pain medication, broad spectrum antibiotics and underwent several treatments under anesthesia to treat burns to her muzzle, face, ears and feet.
Since then, vets have confirmed that the cub is healing well and have installed a “howdy” door between her enclosure and two other orphaned black bears that were brought to the facility in May.
“This allowed the trio to see and smell each other while maintaining separation,” according to PAWS. Recently the barrier was removed and the bears have met and will be playmates until their release.
Jenifer Convy, PAWS senior director of wildlife, companion animal and education services, said the center has seen more cases of injured wildlife, particularly bears, than is normal. The organization has been rehabilitating black bears since 1987 and is the largest bear rehab facility in the state.
“What we’re seeing is extremely unusual,” said Convy, noting that the organization usually rehabilitates and releases about six bears a year. “The number of severely burned bears coming to PAWS is not something I’ve seen in my 25 years at PAWS.”
Not long after learning the Cedar Creek bear was no longer in danger, two severely burned cubs from the Twenty-Five Mile Fire near Chelan were brought to the center on Aug. 23 and 26.
In that case, homeowners saw the cubs on wildlife cameras near their property.
“That’s how we came to see the wounded bear cubs. One of them was crawling and unable to walk,” said Karen Case, according to a news release from PAWS.
The Twenty-Five Mile bears have been confirmed to be siblings. They are being treated for severe burns to their legs and feet and are currently being housed separately while they heal.
“Historically, burns have not been a common injury we’ve seen but we expect this may become more common and we’re prepared at PAWS to admit black bears and other wild species injured by wildfire,” Convy said in a statement.
Franz reported more than 1,650 fires have burned more than 630,000 acres in the state this year, and said fire season will likely last through October. “We are seeing more animals harmed by extreme heat and wildfires than ever before in our 50-year history as an organization,” said PAWS CEO Heidi Wills Yamada. “Certainly we know that people and property are harmed by wildfires, and the devastation affects wildlife too. It can feel overwhelming for people to see the destruction of these wildfires, but no one is powerless to help.”