A young bear burned in the East Canyon Fire was rescued by wildlife officials Tuesday after its paws were severely injured in the blaze west of Durango.
Matt Thorpe, wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the department received a call from fire personnel around 5 p.m. Tuesday that an injured bear was walking around the perimeter of the fire.
CPW crews mobilized, grabbing a tranquilizer gun and traps and headed to the scene.
“It had crossed Cherry Creek Road and was hanging out by a pond and an aquatic area,” Thorpe said. “And then disappeared down there.”
Wildlife officers searched for the bear around the pond and located it. The bear was shot with a tranquilizer and was out about five minutes later, Thorpe said.
Upon examination, the bear was determined to be male, less than 50 pounds and about a year old.
“Unfortunately, it looked like it had some severe burns on its feet,” Thorpe said. “It was clearly worth taking it to our rehab facility.”
The bear was taken to the Frisco Creek Rehabilitation Facility in Del Norte, where it was determined the injury must have happened in the previous day or two because there were no signs of infection.
Thorpe said the bear was already walking Wednesday, albeit in pain.
“We’re cautiously optimistic, but we think we’ll be able to treat it,” he said.
If it is possible to save the bear, it will be treated and kept at the center. Depending on how quickly it recovers, the bear could be released this fall or, in a more serious case, the bear will be allowed to enter hibernation and placed into a human-made den in the winter so it can awake in the wild during spring.
Thorpe said the situation was very similar to that in 2018 during the 416 Fire when a cub was rescued after suffering injuries from the fire north of Durango.
That bear was released in winter 2019 after being successfully treated. Thorpe said there haven’t been any sightings of the 416 Fire bear, which was tagged, or any reports that it was harvested by a hunter.
“We’ve had no contact with it,” Thorpe said. “We’re taking that as a positive sign that it’s out in the woods.”