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Bear cub burned in wildfire gets new lease on life, thanks to some bear-y good people

Aug. 15, 2014 at 4:44 PM ET

A little bear who had a traumatic few weeks after being badly burned in a Washington wildfire is feeling better now, thanks to the help of a few bear-y good people.

The 2-year-old female black bear suffered third-degree burns to her paws, chest, ears and muzzle after being caught in a wildfire that swept northwestern Washington state back in late July, according to the Methow Valley News

Steve Love, who lives close to where the fires had spread, told the Methow Valley News that he saw the injured bear coming up his driveway on the evening of July 31. Once the bear laid down to rest in a shady area near his house with her paws held in the air, it soon became clear to him that she was in pretty bad shape. 

Love offered the bear some dog food, apricots and water, and tried to comfort her by talking in a soothing voice while he waited for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to arrive the next morning. 

After she was transported to the Wildlife Department, a bear specialist there got in touch with California-based Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Inc., which had previously treated a bear with severe burns, to see if they could help the little bear. The center said they would treat her if the Department could transport her over there. 

With the help of a Seattle pilot, the bear was flown to California on Aug. 4. When she arrived she weighed just 39 pounds (bears her age normally weigh twice as much), and had difficulty walking on her paws. But with the help of veterinarians there, she's now on her way to a full recovery. 

The little bear, who was given the name Cinder, was placed in an enclosure with a specialized ramp to help her move around more easily. At the center, she's been given the treatment she deserves: Plenty of fresh fruit and fish, as well as antibiotics, painkillers and burn salve to help her recover. But more than that, the injured bear has been given a new lease on life. 

"She's progressing, which is good," Denise Upton, the animal care coordinator at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Inc. told TODAY.com. "Burns take a long time to heal."

Upton also said the bear has since put on weight, and has been surprisingly cooperative in her own healing.

"A lot of time, bears have problems with leaving bandages alone," Upton said. "So we’re amazed she’s been so good about it. We haven’t had a problem. ” 

Bear
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care / Facebook

But she's still aggressive and prefers to stay away from humans, which Upton said is a great sign that she'll be able to transition easily back into the wild once she's better. "She doesn't like people, which is good," Upton said. 

Less than a decade ago, the center treated a bear cub for severe burns — the only other one it's had —after it was caught in a California wildfire.  

"It was kind of an experimental thing," Upton said of the treatment of the first bear. "And it's a little more of a challenge since she [Cinder] is bigger."

But once the bear cub, named Little Smokey, was released back into the forests of Northern California, she fared extremely well: A tracking device attached to the bear showed that she was able to resume the normal life she had lived before her injury. 

Though staff at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care don't know how long Cinder's recovery will take, they're hopeful that the story will have the happy ending Little Smokey's did.

"She's doing a lot better than when we first got her," Upton said. "She's moving forward." 

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