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Young bears whose paws were burned in a Colorado wildfire is rescued

by Delmar McGaw (2021-02-03)


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A young bear whose paws were badly burned in a wildfire was rescued on Tuesday as the inferno continued to scorch more than 2,700 acres in Colorado. 

Local firefighters were battling the East Canyon Fire that sparked outside of Durango when they spotted a young bear nearby. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers Steve McClung, Andy Brown and Matt Thorpe arrived to the scene around 5.40pm to find the bear not moving.

'You could tell it was really hurting,' McClung said in a press release. 

Wildlife officials successfully tranquilized the bear and discovered its feet were 'badly burned.'

The animal was placed in a trap and taken the Frisco Creek wildlife rehabilitation facility for treatment. 

A young bear was discovered with badly burned paws from the East Canyon Wildfire that sparked in southern Colorado on Sunday (pictured)

Officers with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife  (pictured) responded to the call and transported the bear to a rehabilitation center for treatment 

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'It was apparent that it had some pretty severe injuries,' Thorpe told 'Bears, similar to a dog's paw, have that tough skin on the bottom of their pads, and on several of them, the pad was sloughing off.' 

Officers soon discovered that the bear weighed 43 pounds and was a male yearling, meaning it was born during the winter season in 2019 and is on his own.

It's unclear how the bear was initially burned by the wildfire, but officers believe he got caught in the blaze.

'Across the road from where we found it the area was burned heavily,' McClung said.

'There were little spot fires and some stumps burning. We can't say exactly what happened, but it probably got caught and had to move across some hot spots.'

Officials aren't exactly sure how the bear encountered the wildfire, but believe it was forced to walkover 'hot spots'

Thorpe: 'Bears, similar to a dog's paw, have that tough skin on the bottom of their pads, and on several of them, the pad was sloughing off'

Veterinary Manager Michael Sirochman said the bear's paws were burned, but not deep enough to leave any permanent injuries.

'The prognosis is good and the underlying tissue is healthy.  We cut off the burned tissue that was sloughing off and we put on bandages,' Sirochman said.

The bear is currently being kept in a cage with concrete floor to ensure its injuries avoid infection. 

Sirochman expects the yearling to make a few recovery in eight weeks before its released back into the wild. 

The young bear is currently being kept in a cage with concrete floor to ensure its injuries avoid infection

This is the second bear to be burned by a Durango area wildfire since 2018, when 475,000 acres were lost to wildfires.

2019 saw less damage from wildfires, but still recorded more than 40,000 acres scorched.  

The East Canyon Fire began Sunday after a lightning strike caused a flare-up near La Plata and Montezuma counties.

As of Thursday, the wildfire has zero per cent containment and has seared through more than 2,700 acres of land.

Colorado officials report that there are 245 personnel currently assigned to quell the fire who hope to contain it by June 26 at midnight.   

A Red Flag warning, which is issued for weather that might cause wildfires, was issued as nearby areas evacuated. 

Officials told  that they're focused on keeping the wildfire from spreading to the south.

The East Canyon Fire began Sunday after a lightning strike caused vegetation to catch fire outside of Durango, near La Plata and Montezuma counties.

La Plata and Montezuma counties were among those that were told to evacuate over fears of the East Canyon Fire's expansion into residential areas

The National Weather Service said gusty winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels were responsible for helping the fire to spark

'They want to ensure there are no fuels to feed embers from uphill to the road,' said spokesperson Pam Wilson of  the Bureau of Land Management and the Rocky Mountain Blue Type 2 team. 

The wildfire's containment was at five per cent on Tuesday, but dropped down to zero the following day. 

Even so, officials said they're not worried and that overall weather had improved. 

'The winds didn't get squirrelly on us,' said Pam. Wind is a factor that can help spread wildfires across dry vegetation and other fuels.

There are reportedly 245 personnel fire personnel currently working to extinguish the flames with an estimated deadline of June 26

Resources to stop the fire include a four 20-person hot-shot crews, three 20-person crew and equipment from the East Canyon Fire Department.

Officers will have access to 15 different engines, a bulldozer, five water tenders and a skidgen, which is a mix between a tractor-trailer and a fire engine.

Aircraft equipment like Very Large Air Tanker, a plane used to combat wildfires, and three helicopters were also provided. 

The National Weather Service reported in a Fire Weather Watch that 'gusty winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels ' are creating environment ripe for 'rapid ignition, growth and spread of fires.'

Pictured: a map showing the areas  in Colorado that the East Canyon Fire has impacted 

Officials have said that the wildfire season in Colorado is expected to be normal this year despite two fires already sparking in June

The containment level for the East Canyon Fire was at five per cent on Tuesday, but dropped down to zero per cent on Wednesday 

A second wildfire in southern Colorado started Tuesday at the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Around 220 acres were burnt so far. 

The Six Shooter Fire was located in Six Shooter Canyon after it was sparked by lightning. 

At least 15 per cent of the fire has been contained. 

Despite the rocky start, wildfire officials predict Colorado's wildfire season to be a relatively average.

'We always have to remember that wet winters and springs can favor increased wildfire risk due to increased understory growth,' Lieutenant Mike Evers of the Colorado Springs Fire Department told 'But these fires will typically occur in the summer or fall once the grasses and fuels have had a chance to dry out.'