When fishermen and firefighters found a 25-pound cub clinging to a Douglas fir tree near the blackened aftermath of the Mustang Complex Fire on Saturday, they knew he was hurt.
What they didn’t know at the time was that the bear they have named Boo Boo had pretty severe burns on all four of his paws. The cub, who is about 4 months old, couldn’t walk and had not eaten in about four days. His mom was nowhere to be found.
On Tuesday, Boo Boo was able to get badly needed first aid, but he still needs long-term care to survive, Idaho Fish and Game veterinarian Mark Drew said.
“He needs the Salt Lake City burn center, and I don’t think they will admit him,” said Drew, who treated the cub at the Garden Valley Ranger Station.
Boo Boo was licking his red and blistered paws before Drew gave him medicine to knock him out.
Drew said Boo Boo will need medications and his bandages changed every day for at least four-to-six weeks to be able to recover, so forest officials are looking for an accredited veterinarian hospital where the cub can get the intense treatment he needs.
Forest officials were hopeful that Boo Boo could rehabilitate at the Snowden Wildlife Sanctuary in McCall, but that’s not possible because of the extent of the burns.
If the bear is able to recover, he probably will have to be kept in captivity or some kind of animal sanctuary because he will be too familiar with humans to go back in the wild, Drew said.
The cub will stay at Drew’s clinic until officials can find a hospital for him.
If Boo Boo makes it, he will have a very similar story to the cub who became Smokey Bear in the 1950s.
Though the concept of Smokey was created in the 1940s - a behatted, pants-wearing and shovel-hoisting bear who warned kids about the dangers of forest fires in numerous cartoons - it wasn’t until a cub was rescued in 1950 at the Capitan Gap Fire in New Mexico that the United States had the real thing.
Like 2012’s Boo Boo, the 1950 Smokey was found clinging to a tree by firefighters. He also had burned paws.
Smokey was nursed back to health and eventually went to live at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he was a star attraction until he died in 1976.