LYNNWOOD — Firefighters saw the 7-month-old black bear cub on July 27, thin and obviously burned, with no mother in sight, about 40 yards off Highway 20 near Mazama and the Cedar Creek Fire.
In August, property owners on the south shore of Lake Chelan, near the Twenty-Five Mile Fire, saw two more injured cubs, one with paws so burned she was walking on her elbows and knees. One of those cubs’ siblings was found a few days later.
The four cubs were brought to PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood, where veterinarians cleaned their wounds, applied ointment and bandaged them up. Three of the bears were trending up, said Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen, a PAWS veterinarian. If all goes well, they’ll be released back into the wild next spring. Their chances for survival then should be high.
One of the bears had to be euthanized due to the extent of its injuries, Rosenhagen said.
The burned cubs are a new sight at PAWS Wildlife Center, the largest bear rehabilitation facility in the state.
“The number of severely burned bears coming to PAWS is not something I’ve seen in my 25 years at PAWS,” said PAWS Wildlife Director Jennifer Convy at a news conference Tuesday. PAWS has cared for bears since 1987, seeing an average of six a year.
The cubs were lucky in the sense they were big enough to be spotted. Convy said many more animals die unseen in the fires — “thousands and thousands and thousands,” she guessed. Those that escape would return home to a charred landscape. They would have to find suitable habitat elsewhere.
These cubs put another face on the catastrophic wildfires that are becoming more and more common, state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said while visiting PAWS. She said this season is proving to be one of the worst yet. So far this year the state has seen more than 1,700 fires, with 620,000 acres burned. Firefighters haven’t had a break since July 1, she said.
Franz expected burn bans to be in effect through September, at least, as drought persists in many parts of the state.
She had at least one reason to be happy, though, at Tuesday’s news conference: It was sprinkling.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to wake up to gray skies and rain,” she said. “We have needed this. It is giving some respite to communities and, most importantly, our firefighters.”
Want to help?
If you see any wildlife that might need help, you can call and consult with PAWS Wildlife Center at 425-412-4040. For more information about donating to or volunteering with PAWS, visit paws.org.
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