BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A bear cub rescued from a fire in the Idaho backcountry after suffering second-degree burns on all four of its paws has been moved to a wildlife sanctuary and is expected to make a full recovery, officials said Monday.
The bear nicknamed "Boo Boo" is being housed in a 2-acre enclosure with another cub and is doing very well, said Linda DeEulis, director of the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary. The bear was brought to the rehabilitation area, located outside the mountain resort town of McCall, on Friday.
He first spent two weeks recuperating at the Idaho Humane Society shelter in Boise after he was discovered in late August, clinging to a tree, in a region recently scorched by a massive wildfire. Efforts to find the cub's mother were unsuccessful.
DeEulis was worried at first about the bear's claws and his ability to climb, she said, but those concerns were quickly put to rest after he arrived at the sanctuary.
"He's doing fine, the first thing he did was run up a tree," she told The Associated Press.
If the bear continues to mend, he will be released to wild.
DeEulis and an Idaho Department of Fish and Game official predicted that it might be next spring before the bear puts on enough weight to go out on his own.
Boo Boo's story is not unlike the tale of Smokey Bear, a cub that became a national symbol for fire prevention after he was found in a charred tree taking refuge from a New Mexico blaze in 1950. He was also treated for burned paws.
In Idaho, officials were flooded with calls from people wanting to help the bear dubbed Boo Boo. The cub weighed about 25 pounds and likely hadn't eaten for several days when he was found. He was estimated to be about 4 months old.
The bear has since gained about 20 pounds and the burned pads on the paws appear to be healing nicely, which means he's probably out of danger for infection, said Evin Oneale, a regional conservation educator with the state Department of Fish and Game.
Oneale is based in southwestern Idaho, where the bear was first brought after it was rescued.
"He was in pretty bad shape," Oneale said. "He looks like a young healthy little black bear now. He looks great."
While veterinarians at the Idaho Humane Society rechristened the bear "Bernard," state wildlife officials still refer to him as Boo Boo. At the wildlife sanctuary, DeEulis remained neutral, saying she doesn't play or talk to the bears at her facility, where the goal is to rehabilitate animals so they can be released back into their natural habitats.
"I don't care what anybody calls him," she said. "But Boo Boo sounds like a cartoon character."