HAMILTON, Mont. - An orphaned black bear cub burned in a wildfire last summer is recovering and may be released in June, an Idaho wildlife sanctuary official said.
The 4-month-old bear, nicknamed Boo Boo, was discovered by a fisherman in a tree along the Salmon River in August, days after the 312-square-mile Mustang wildfire complex passed through the area.
The cub had second-degree burns on all four paws and was malnourished when U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game workers rescued him.
After spending a few weeks at the Idaho Humane Society, the cub has been rehabilitating since September in the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary near McCall. He lives in a 2-acre forested enclosure with five other orphaned cubs.
Snowdon board member Diane Evans-Mack said Boo Boo is on the road to a full recovery.
"You wouldn't even be able to notice that his paws were ever burnt now," she said. "We don't see him every day, but even when we saw him in September, two weeks after the fire, we noticed just looking at the paws that they were much better. They were still a little bit sensitive, but he was climbing trees and running around."
The sanctuary tracks the bears' activity with cameras. Some of the pictures show Boo Boo and another bear playfully wrestling with each other at night.
Evans-Mack said the plan is to release Boo Boo into the wild in June, and he may be collared so the sanctuary can keep track of him.
"We are going to end up holding Boo Boo through the winter, and we'll wait until the spring bear-hunting season is over because he would be a little too naive to be out there," she said.