Bear hurt in forest fire near Durango released back to the wild

DURANGO, Colo. – A bear injured in a fire west of Durango in June has healed and was released back to the wild on Monday (Aug. 24) by officers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

 The bear was taken to a remote location not far from where it was found. The bear hesitated for about a minute while it sniffed its new surroundings. Then it jumped from the container in the back of a CPW pick-up truck and dashed into the thick cover of the aspen forest.

 “Now he’s got food, he’s got water, he’s got everything he needs,” said Wildlife Officer Steve McClung, “And I hope I never see him again.”

 On June 16, firefighters at the East Canyon fire reported to the CPW Durango office that they saw a bear that appeared to be injured. Wildlife officers responded and when found the bear in a boggy area. It did not move when approached which indicated it was in a lot of pain. The bear, a male, was tranquilized and taken to CPW’s Frisco Creek wildlife rehabilitation facility in Del Norte.

 The two-year-old bear weighed just 43 pounds and its feet were badly burned. At Frisco Creek, CPW’s wildlife technician cleaned the bear’s paws, applied salves to treat the burns and wrapped its feet. The bear was kept in a pen with concrete floors to assure the wounds would stay clean. Fortunately, the bear did not tear off the bandages as a bear rescued from a fire two years ago had done.

 “He was a good patient,” said Michael Sirochman, veterinary technician and manager of the Frisco Creek facility.

The bear’s bandages were changed 16 times from mid-June to mid-July. When the paws were healed it was placed in a regular pen that provides trees to climb on and places to hide. Sirochman said the bear now weighs 110 pounds and its paws are toughened up.

“He’s now about the weight he should be for a two-year-old bear and is in good shape for going into the fall,” Sirochman said.  

 As a two-year old, the bear has well developed instincts to survive in the wild. No tracking devices have been placed on the bear and it is now on its own.

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