HAMILTON – The burned, orphaned black bear cub that was rescued from the Mustang Complex of fires along Idaho’s Salmon River has become a national celebrity, according to state wildlife experts who are nursing it back to health.

Nicknamed Boo Boo by his rescuers, the 4-month-old bear, with severe second-degree burns on all four paws, was found in a tree by a fisherman last weekend.

The cub hadn’t eaten in four or five days, but Idaho state veterinarian Mark Drew has been caring for and feeding the cub for the past week while he tries to locate a suitable wildlife rehabilitation facility that can adequately care for the animal.

According to Idaho Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale, the young bear’s saga of fire-related injuries and rescue by national forest and Idaho Fish and Game personnel spread across the country in a matter of hours. Boise National Forest and Idaho Fish and Game offices have been inundated with phone calls and emails from people offering good wishes and monetary support, and many others have asked about volunteer opportunities to care for the cub.

“We’ve heard from folks all across Idaho and from other states, including California, Texas and New York,” Oneale said. “Each note or phone call has the same common theme – concern for this young bear.”

Because of the severity of its burns, the young bear faces a long recovery, Oneale explained.

“Infection is the main concern right now,” he said. “At this time, our state veterinarian is evaluating local facilities that can give the cub the medical attention it needs to make a full recovery.”

Meanwhile, Oneale said, the cub is being cared for at a Fish and Game facility where it is eating regularly and receiving necessary medical care.

Monetary donations have been one of the common themes among people contacting the office, Oneale said.

“We have no good mechanism to accept donations related to this bear cub’s treatment,” he explained. “Once a care facility is selected, we’ll let people know where and how they can provide funding to cover the costs of care and treatment.”

The Ravalli Republic has been flooded with calls and emails from people across the country concerned for the bear as well, with many offering monetary support or other services.

Richard Gilbreth of the International Exotic Animals Sanctuary in Boyd, Texas, called to say he would even arrange to fly to Idaho to pick up the bear.

“We have a large sanctuary here in Texas, and we take in orphaned and abused and abandoned animals,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of bears. We have a five-acre natural habitat. And we were certified by the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They live on site just like they live in the wild. They dig dens and everything. So he’s got a home if they want to send him down this way. I’ve offered to fly up and pick him up.”

Gilbreth is just one of many people who have been touched by the bear’s story.

“It’s gotten a lot of attention,” Oneale said. “It’s very gratifying to know that so many people care.”

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at 363-3300 or at david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com.

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