Bear Cub Rescued After His Paws Were Severely Burned In The East Canyon Fire In Colorado

A young male bear whose paws were badly burned during the East Canyon Fire, was rescued Tuesday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officers. The injured bear is now being cared for at a CPW facility in Del Norte, Colorado. Sadly, the fire continues to burn about 30 miles west of Durango.

“We always hate to see injured animals, but we are pleased we were able to rescue this bear so that we can nurse him back to health and return him to the wild,” Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager in Durango, said in a statement.

CPW’s Durango wildlife office received a call from the fire dispatch center late Tuesday afternoon explaining that firefighters had seen a bear that appeared to be injured. He walked across a meadow and into reeds next to a pond.

Wildlife officers Steve McClung, Andy Brown, and Matt Thorpe left as soon as they received the call and arrived on the scene at 5:40 p.m. When the officers approached, the bear did not move.

“You could tell he was really hurting,” said McClung.

The bear was sitting in reeds and the officers used poles to push back the vegetation. That allowed them to administer a tranquilizer dart to sedate him before transporting him to the Frisco Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility for evaluation and treatment.

The bear is a yearling, which means he was born during the winter of 2019 and is now living on his own. Bears usually stay with their mothers for a year. He was moving alone when the firefighters spotted him.

“Across the road from where we found him, the area was burned heavily,” said McClung. “There were little spot fires and some stumps burning. We can’t say exactly what happened, but he probably got caught and had to move across some hot spots.”

“The prognosis is good, and the underlying tissue is healthy. They removed the burned tissue and bandaged the paws,” stated Michael Sirochman, Veterinary Manager at Frisco Creek. The young bear weighed 43 pounds and was quite thin, which is not unusual for yearlings at this time of year.

Sirochman expects that the bear will be ready to be released back into the wild in about eight weeks. Bears that are taken in for rehabilitation are usually released near the same area where they were found.

This is the second rescue of a burned bear that Durango wildlife officers have been involved with in the past two years. A bear cub, whose feet were also burned, was found during the 416 Fire, north of Durango, in 2018.

The bear was also taken to Frisco Creek where it made a full recovery thanks to the care that it received from CPW veterinary staff. After going into hibernation, the bear was placed in a man-made den with another cub in the mountains west of Durango in January 2019. Cameras showed that the bears emerged successfully from their den.

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