Close Encounters Man vs. Nature

Boo Boo the fire-scorched bear cub given a second chance at life in Idaho wilderness

He's set free nine months after being rescued with badly burned paws

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Nine months after its rescue from the Mustang fire near Salmon, Idaho, with four severely burned paws, Boo Boo the black bear cub is back in the forest and on solid footing … with a second chance at life in the wild.

To be sure, the young animal’s future looked bleak last August, as fire raged around him and he clung to a tree, unable to walk, fortunate to have been rescued by firefighters.

The frightened cub, separated from mom, weighed only 25 pounds. Because his paws were so severely burned, many thought he’d spend the rest of his days in captivity. He spent the first two weeks after his rescue in intensive care at the Idaho Humane Society, and was rehabilitated at Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary in the town of McCall.

When set free this week in the central Idaho woods, he scampered off weighing nearly 100 pounds, plump and fit, ready to resume life in the wild.

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Boo Boo the bear takes his first steps in the Idaho wilderness nine months after being severely burned in a wildfire. Photos are courtesy of Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary

“He’s in excellent health,” said Jeff Rohlman, a biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, who supervised Boo Boo’s transfer to a remote section of woodlands. “He’s 30 to 40 pounds heavier than cubs of this age typically are in the wild.”

Boo Boo, presumably named after Yogi’s faithful companion in the 1960s cartoon series “Yogi Bear,” is the most famous of 11 cubs orphaned by Idaho wildfires in 2012 and rehabilitated at Snowdon. Several others will be released over the next several days.

“It’s very gratifying to be able to do this work–to see a cub go free and know that it has a very good chance of survival in the wild,” said Carolyn Walpole, who helps run the facility.

The bears have been cared for inside a 2-acre enclosure. By May they were consuming 200 pounds of food per day. Snowdon was relying largely on donations from a grocery store to help keep the bears fed.

Boo Boo was the first to be released, simply because he was first to wander into a culvert trap used for transport.

The curious cub is wearing a GPS collar unit, so his whereabouts can be monitored, and the unit is designed to fall off after a year.

Stated Snowdon in a press release:

“Given the severity of Boo Boo’s burns, many initially thought he would spend his life in captivity, just like Smokey the Bear 60 years ago. Boo Boo’s new beginning as a wild bear is a fitting ending to a story that began with the compassion of firefighters and endured with concern from people across the country who supported his care at Snowdon.”

–To view more photos of Boo Boo and other bear cubs at Snowdon, please visit the facility’s Facebook page 

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