An orphaned black bear cub burned in one of the most devastating wildfires in Colorado history was released back into the mountains on May 5 thanks to the efforts of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The male bear cub was in very bad shape when he was rescued by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, found severely dehydrated and malnourished by landowners on the southeastern edge of the Cameron Peak Fire near Green Ridge. The bear weighed only 16.3 pounds, suffering from old burns on its feet from the 208,913-acre wildfire. Its ears were also infected from frostbite, covered in cockleburs.

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Officials at CPW's wildlife health lab in Fort Collins treat and bandage this injured bear cub on Dec. 12, 2020 (photo by Jason Duetsch/CPW)

It's unclear how long the cub may have been orphaned or when burns may have occurred. According to officials, evidence of new tissue growing on the bear's feet when it was captured suggested that it had been quite some time.

The young black bear was treated for nearly five months at Frisco Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Del Norte. 

“This bear's drive to survive did most of the work and we just gave it a little boost,” said Kristin Cannon, deputy regional manager for CPW's Northeast Region. “This bear went through an awful lot in its first year of life, let's hope humans can now help keep it wild by not rewarding it with our food sources and lowering its chances of survival.”

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife shared video of the young black bear, now one year old and weighing 93 pounds, getting released back into the wild earlier this month. 

“This is an incredibly fortunate bear,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jason Duetsch. “Most wild animals don’t survive the myriad of injuries they are exposed to, let alone be found, captured and treated successfully. He definitely would not have made it through much longer. It is the smallest bear cub I have ever seen at that time of the year, which helped us make the decision to try rehabilitation.”

The Cameron Peak Fire is the largest wildfire in Colorado history, scorching more than 200,000 acres in Larimer County. The wildfire erupted on August 13 and continued burning until it was fully contained on December 2.

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Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.

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