BOISE, Idaho -- The Idaho Humane Society’s veterinary staff regularly treats wild animals for the affiliated rescue group Animals in Distress.
But it’s not often they’re called on to treat a 4-month-old injured bear cub like Boo Boo, which was orphaned by a wildfire near Salmon and found clinging to a tree Aug. 26.
"We’re not trying to set up a bear sanctuary," said Idaho Humane Society Executive Director Jeff Rosenthal, the veterinarian who anesthetized the cub Tuesday morning so that the bear’s bandages could be changed.
The second-degree burns on the cub’s paws are healing well. The tendons don’t appear damaged; that could have impaired his ability to walk or get food. "He might be ready to go within a couple weeks," Rosenthal said.
Fish & Game officials say their goal is to return the bear to the wild, if possible, so it’s critical that the bear cub not become habituated to human caretakers - or see them as friends.
If he’s fully recovered and hasn’t become accustomed to humans, the bear could join four other orphaned black bear cubs at Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary near McCall, said Jeff Rohlman, regional wildlife manager for the Idaho Fish & Game. The other cubs are from north and east Idaho, and weren’t orphaned by fire.
No decisions on the bear’s future have been made, said Rohlman.
"We recommend all weaned bears go to Snowdon because of the native habit there," he said.
Snowdon has 1- and 2-acre "exclosures" with trees and native shrubbery.
Idaho has four rehab facilities, including Idaho Black Bear Rehab in Garden City, which helped care for the more than 40 black bear cubs orphaned in the fires of 2007.
In December or January, Boo Boo - and the other cubs at Snowdon - may be set up in dens near McCall, then free to get on with their lives when they awake from their hibernation.
Rohlman said Idaho is 95 percent successful at returning orphaned cubs to the wild. But a few always "get into trouble" by seeking out humans, he said.
The Idaho Humane Society has an isolated room - which can accommodate up to six dogs - to care for the bear, Rosenthal said.
The room was used in the past to house bobcats for extended periods of time. It has three adjoining runs where the bear can roam a bit.
"We had to do more (retrofitting) for the bobcats," Rosenthall said. "The bear is not able to jump or climb out."
The veterinarians treating the bear are the only ones allowed near him, and they try to keep their interaction "aversive" - unfriendly - to prevent bonding. They attach syringes to a pole to sedate the animal.
"If you approach him, he grunts and will attempt to slap towards you, or make little false charging motions," Rosenthal said. "He’s afraid and he’s trying to scare us off."
The Idaho Humane Society has received more than $1,000 in donations for the bear’s care - including a $500 check from the unaffiliated Humane Society of the United States. It’s also received numerous flats of fresh berries.
The bear also is happily consuming apples and dog food.
If it turns out that the bear is too injured or comfortable with humans for the wild, could he find a new home at Zoo Boise?
Temporarily, yes, but not a permanent one.
"We don’t have the space right now to put a black bear in here," said Zoo Boise Director Steve Burns.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413
)2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)
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