Carr burn bear returns to the wild

In early August, CDFW personnel rescued a young female black bear near Whiskeytown in Shasta County. The bear had severe burns to all four of her paws as a result of the Carr wildfire. Following her rescue, the 1.5-year-old bear spent just over one month recovering at the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory where she received tilapia fish skin treatments and other therapies to assist with healing. The recovery was deemed successful – all four paws re-epithelialized, regained function, and the bear put on a significant amount of weight – and she was released back into the wild in mid-September. Due to challenges with placing a collar on a still-growing wild animal, the WIL turned to an international company, GPS Collars Ltd., for an alternative tracking device: the EarTraX V2 GPS/GSM/UHF wildlife telemetry ear tag ( In addition to being less obtrusive than a collar, the solar-powered unit will utilize existing cellular networks to transmit the bear’s location. The data collected will provide CDFW with valuable insight into bear behavior and landscape usage in post-wildfire areas


Update on Bears Burned in Thomas Fire

Please go to California Department of Fish and Wildlife Facebook page for the latest update on the two bears that were burned in the Thomas Fire in late December/early January! Both bears were suffering from extensive burns to their paws when they were brought to CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Lab in northern California. The link to the Facebook page is below.


One of the two bears that were burned in the Thomas Fire caught on trail camera after release.

Orphaned bear cubs released into the wild after rehabilitation

Each year, the WIL oversees the rehabilitation and release of orphaned bear cubs throughout the state.  With the help of non-profit wildlife rehabilitation facilities, cubs are cared for until they reach an age at which they can survive on their own in the wild.

A winter release, sometimes called a soft release, requires creating artificial dens for the cubs, encouraging them to go into hibernation.  Spring releases do not require dens.  Instead, the animals are released on site and hazing methods are used upon release to discourage habituation to human presence.

To learn more about the rehab and release process, check out this short video.

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Two Bears Walk Into a Bar…

By Tom Batter, WIL Scientific Aid

An opening line like the title above is usually followed with some kind of a punch line.  Unfortunately you will find no joke here; two black bear cubs were recently confiscated from a local Kern County drinking establishment.  The presumably orphaned cubs came and went from the bar for about 8 weeks, where they were fed and played with by patrons, before the matter was brought to CDFW wildlife officer’s attention. As it is illegal to feed bears in the state of California, not to mention both human and wildlife health and welfare were at risk, the cubs were brought to the WIL for temporary housing and care.

The black bear cubs enjoy an afternoon nap in the hammock. (Photo courtesy J. Sherman)

The black bear cubs enjoy some R&R in their hammock. (Photo courtesy J. Sherman)

There was some hope that the cubs could be rehabilitated and released in accordance with department guidelines.  However, upon arrival at the WIL it was clear that these bears were far too habituated to humans.  After being evaluated by wildlife professionals, it was decided that these bears will have to be housed in captivity for the remainder of their lives.

It would be remiss of the WIL if we did not (again) direct our reader’s attention to the “Keep Me Wild” campaign.  Although it has become somewhat of a reoccurring theme on our blog, it is important to remember that California’s wildlife belongs in the wild. Although the folks feeding these cubs may have thought they were helping, the reality is that these cubs have been permanently habituated to people and will have to live a life in captivity.

The WIL has partnered with a high quality facility – the Houston Zoo in Houston, TX – to place both siblings together.  Upon their debut in their new enclosure last month, visitors watched as the cubs attempted a daring escape!  Zoo officials were able to safely and securely return them to their enclosure.  Leave it to California bear cubs to mess with Texas!

Remember: do not feed wild animals and do not handle wild animals; this endangers you and harms the wildlife as well.  Click here for steps to take should you come across nuisance, dangerous, or injured wildlife.

Three Bear Cubs Rehabilitated and Released

By Tom Batter, Wildlife Investigations Lab Scientific Aid

How near to good is what is wild!

– Henry David Thoreau, Walking, 1862

Two bear cubs stop to look back after they are released

Two bear cubs stop to look back after they are released. (Photo credit: Jamie Sherman)

The Wildlife Investigations Lab (WIL) is pleased to announce the rehabilitation and release of three black bear cubs.  Each cub was found orphaned in Southern California and brought to either the WIL care facility or to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) for rehabilitation.

The three–one male and two females–eventually became united at the WIL care facility in Rancho Cordova. The two females were transferred from LTWC so all three bears could become familiar with one another and be released simultaneously.  WIL staff cared for the bears everyday, cleaning the pens and hiding food in trees and logs to get them used to “searching” for food.

Three bears in their temporary pen at the WIL. We brought in trees and logs to help get them used to foliage they will encounter in their natural habitat. (Photo credit: CDFW WIL)

WIL staff also took precautionary measures so that upon release the bears would retain their natural avoidance behavior of humans. We attached visual barriers to the perimeter of the pens, installed a trail camera in the pen for monitoring the bears, and limited the number of caregivers to a select few, minimizing human-bear interaction. This will give them a greater chance of survival.

They were pleased to be climbing trees again. (Photo credit J. Sherman)

They were pleased to be climbing trees again. (Photo credit: J. Sherman)

Prior to their release, the bears had ear tag radio transmitters attached to each of them. The transmitters have a range of 3-5 miles and can be detected from either the ground or from an airplane. These bears will be monitored continuously to gain knowledge on habitat use, dispersal distances, and reproduction (among other data) post-release.

The bears were released together back into their native home range in Southern California. Special thanks to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care for their hard work and dedication to black bear rehab, as well as Lieutenant Martin Wall, Senior Environmental Scientist Rick Mayfield, Wildlife Environmental Scientist Rebecca Barboza, Capture Specialist Tim Glenner, Scientific Aid David Mollel, and Scientific Aid Jamie Sherman for their assistance with the release.

One of the bears scrambles into its' new stomping grounds. (Photo credit Jamie Sherman)

One of the bears scrambles into its’ new stomping grounds. (Photo credit: J. Sherman)

Farewell to WIL Cub

by WIL Scientific Aids, Tom Batter & Jaime Rudd

Since July, the Wildlife Investigations Lab (WIL) has been caring for a black bear cub that had been stricken with mange, ringworm and bacterial skin infections. Although she still has some patches of thin hair and scarring on her back from the severe wounds she incurred, she has made wonderful progress and is almost fully recovered.

As her stay at WIL comes to an end, her next adventure begins at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. While we are sad to see her go, we know her new caretakers will be excellent guardians. You can learn more about her and how she came to the WIL by following the link. To catch her playing in her pool (and attacking an artichoke) click here.

Here are some photographs where you can track the progress of her recovery:

Week 5

Week 7

Weel 8. Photo courtesy of WIL volunteer Jamie Sherman.

Week 10

Week 12

Week 15

HaPpY HaLlOwEeN!

All of us at the Wildlife Investigations Lab would like to wish you and your family a safe and happy Halloween!

Do you recognize this little bear cub enjoying a Halloween treat? It may be difficult considering she has a beautiful, thick coat of hair growing in! Click here to read about her  amazing recovery.