Firefighters are keeping an eye on a lone, emaciated bear cub that may have lost its mother to the country’s largest wildfire now burning in Northern California.
The pointy-eared cub is seen rambling solo along a mountain road burned by the Dixie Fire near Taylorsville, peering through brush and leaping through plants covered in fire retardant chemicals.
“Generally when you see them with a sow or a mother bear, they’ll stay with the mother bear and run off,” said firefighter Johnnie Macy, who was deployed from Golden, Colorado, to battle the fire. “This bear hasn’t done that, so because of that we think that the bear’s orphaned as a result of the fire.”
Macy said on Sunday that they’ve been monitoring the cub for several days, to determine if it is an orphan. A wildlife rescue team was waiting to extract the emaciated cub from the burn-scarred area.
Macy called the situation “heartbreaking,” but said it is “Mother Nature taking its course.”
The Dixie Fire has been burning for more than a month and destroyed more than 1,000 homes and businesses with nearly 15,000 structures still under threat. Pacific Gas & Electric has said the fire may have been sparked when a tree fell on its power line.
A bear named “Smokey” is, of course, the most famous orphan cub in the country rescued from wildfire.
The badly burned bear was rescued from a New Mexico wildfire in 1950 and became the living, breathing embodiment of a national campaign launched in 1944 when the U.S. Forest Service and Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for a fire prevention campaign.
Earlier this month, a bear cub with burns to its paws and nose was rescued from a fire in eastern Siskiyou County in California. Also this month, an injured cub tunneled out of a Lake Tahoe wildlife care center where he was being treated for burns sustained in a wildfire. The bear has since been spotted in the wild.