An orphaned bear cub with painful burns on her paws was rescued from a Colorado wildfire and is being nursed back to health, state officials said Friday.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers believe she'll recover well enough to be released this winter.
"When the bear was brought in, I wasn't sure if it was going to make it," said Michael Sirochman, a Parks and Wildlife veterinary technician. "But she's responding very well to treatment and by winter we believe we'll be able to return her to the wild."
It was an encouraging bit of news amid a disruptive and dangerous fire season in Colorado.
The wildfire that injured the cub had burned 65 square miles near Durango in the southwestern corner of the state. More than 2,000 homes were evacuated at one point but those residents were allowed to return home.
At least three other fires were burning in Colorado Friday.Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife
The orphaned bear cub is 4 or 5 months old and weighed just 10 pounds when she was rescued.
Firefighters spotted her wandering alone in a burned-over area north of Durango last week. They notified Parks and Wildlife on June 22 because there was no sign of her mother. Officers don't know how the mother and cub became separated.
Wildlife officers found her in a tree and immobilized her with a tranquilizer dart and took her to a state wildlife facility.
Sirochman, the manager of the facility, said the cub's burns were severe. She's being treated with salve, bandages, antibiotics and pain medication, and is eating solid food and a liquid milk replacement.
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She spends most of her time lying on her side to keep her weight off the painful wounds, Sirochman said.
Caretakers are minimizing their contact with the cub so she won't become accustomed to humans, which would make it difficult for her to survive in the wild.
After she heals, she'll be placed in an enclosure with four other cubs at the wildlife facility. They could be released this winter.
"We have good luck returning young bears to the wild," Sirochman said. "We're very strict about minimizing human contact."