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Bears Burned By The California Wildfires Are Being Healed With Fish Skin

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Two bears and a mountain lion caught up in California’s devastating Thomas fire, the largest in the state’s history, have a second chance after receiving some incredible care.

The bears and the lion were all badly burned, but a team of veterinarians, an environmental scientist, and many California Department of Fish and Wildlife staffers nursed them back to health in a fascinating way: with fish skin.

Doctors in Brazil have used tilapia skin to treat burns in humans in the absence of better materials with incredible results, and the CDFW vets, working with a UC Davis Vet Teaching Hospital prof, decided to try tilapia on the animals.

Of course, putting fish skin on the paws of bears is just asking for them to chew it off, so the doctors wrapped their paws in corn husks and rice paper to slow them down while they healed.

Of course, putting fish skin on the paws of bears is just asking for them to chew it off, so the doctors wrapped their paws in corn husks and rice paper to slow them down while they healed.
Flickr | California Department of Fish and Wildlife
But their treatment was thrown for a loop when an ultrasound showed that one of the bears was pregnant.

“That was a game changer for us,” said Dr. Deana Clifford, “because we knew it wouldn’t be ideal for her to give birth in confinement.”

With the stress the mother was under, it was highly likely she would reject the cub. So, trying to get the mother back into the wild became a priority. The CDFW built her a den for her release back into the wild, since she wouldn’t have time to make her own.

The bears were released on January 18th, with trail cameras near their dens and wearing tracking collars.

And although they don’t know exactly when the cub will be born, they’re hopeful that all their efforts will work out for the best. “We’re really hopeful that these novel treatments accelerated the healing for these bears and provided them the best odds of survival,” Dr. Clifford said.

What do you think of these amazing veterinarians? Let us know in the comments!

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