Fish skins and teamwork give a burned bear a second chance
A bear cub burned in the Carr Fire had its injuries treated in a novel way – with fish skins.
On August 2, a PG&E contractor found the bear lying in ashes near Whiskeytown, paws burned so badly she was unable to walk. Soon after California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers, including Environmental Program Manager Jeff Stoddard and Senior Environmental Scientist Eric Haney, were able to tranquilize the cub and transport it to the department’s lab three hours away in Rancho Cordova.
There, bear’s burned paws were bandaged with the skins of a shiny silver tilapia, a novel treatment pioneered by Dr. Jamie Peyton of UC Davis’ William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The six-hour procedure has only been done on two other burned bears. According to Kirsten Macintyre, Fish and Wildlife’s communications manager, the fish skins work well because they’re not synthetic, which will help the bear heal faster.
“Any vet will tell you that an animal will try to get off a synthetic bandage,” Macintyre said. The fish bandages, on the other hand, are all natural and help keep bacteria out. Since they’re sterilized, they don’t have a fishy smell, which could tempt the bear to eat off the bandages.
“The bear doesn’t recognize it as food,” said Macintyre. “It’s like paper.”
As Friday, the bear is doing well, according to Macintyre. The department expects to change the bear’s bandages about once a week, maybe more, if the bear ends up picking the bandages off.
Macintyre says they are hopeful that the cub will make a full recovery.
“The goal is 100 percent to relocate it back into the wild,” Stoddard told the Redding Record-Searchlight. “We don’t want a captive animal.”