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Bear cub burned in California wildfire kicks back in hammock as paws heal

Bear rescued in Calif. fire gets fish skin treatment

A bear cub is healing and walking around after receiving a unique treatment on her paws, which officials say were badly burned in California's Carr Fire

As she continues to recover, the 1-year-old bear is also enjoying the comfort of a hammock that's hanging in the Rancho Cordova facility where she's being treated, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said. 

The cub was found on August 2 by a utility worker near Whiskeytown, California, according to officials. She was lying in ash and unable to walk. The worker alerted wildlife officials, and a team hiked out to find her. They tranquilized the cub and drove her three-and-a-half hours to the lab for treatment.

"Generally speaking, an animal that has survived a fire and is walking around on its own should be left alone, but that wasn't the case here," Jeff Stoddard, the wildlife department's environmental program manager, said in a statement. "There were active fires burning nearby, and with the burn area exceeding 125 square miles and growing, we weren't sure there was any suitable habitat nearby to take her to."

To heal her paws, veterinarians used sterilized tilapia skins as bandages and sutured them directly to her wounds. She has received two doses of the fish skin and become more "spunky and very wild" since starting treatment early last week.  

The spunky cub didn't take well to the tilapia skins at first -- tearing them off quickly. But the veterinarians have monitored her closely and adjusted treatment as needed. 

The fish skins provide direct, steady pressure to the cub's wounds, wildlife officials say, and typically stay on better and longer than synthetic bandages.  

A yearling bear cub with burns from the Carr Fire is currently receiving veterinary care at CDFW’s Wildlife...

Posted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday, August 9, 2018

The yearling cub is the third burned bear to receive the tilapia care; two bears burned in the Thomas Fire were released in January after undergoing the experimental treatment.

"This little bear is younger and spunkier than the two bears we treated in January, which is kind of a mixed blessing," Deana Clifford, who is in charge of the bear's care, said in a statement. "She's very healthy other than her burned paws, but she's also very active."

Just five days after starting treatment, the cub had a new growth of delicate skin and a healthy appetite, officials said. The lab staff has been adding pain medications directly to her food and no longer worries that she'll miss a dose. 

The cub has also retained her natural fear of humans -- a good sign, officials said, as they hope to release her to the wild "as soon as possible."