Two Adult Black Bears Burned In Thomas Fire, Have Been Released Into The Wild Again

Two adult female black bears were successfully released back into the wild last week after being treated for burns from the Thomas Fire with tilapia fish skin.  The animals, along with a five-month-old mountain lion, were taken to a state wildlife lab outside Sacramento for treatment after they were found injured with burns from the Thomas Fire, which burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The blaze began Dec. 4 and became California’s largest wildfire on record, at 440 square miles.

Jamie Peyton, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at UC Davis’s veterinary medical teaching hospital, was consulted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to manage the bears’ pain. Peyton decided to try sterilized tilapia skin in addition to acupuncture, chiropractic care and a host of other treatments to speed up the animals’ recovery, according to a UC Davis news release sent out Wednesday.


Veterinarians wanted to prevent the bears from growing accustomed to captivity and to get the older bear back into the wild in time to give birth.


Shortly after the fish skin was sutured onto the bear’s paws, they were able to stand for the first time since they were brought to the lab, Peyton said. In a few weeks, the bears had grown back the skin on their badly burned paws, and the tilapia skin was removed.


Tilapia skin can be used in place of a bandage and can be changed every 10 days, making it easier and faster to treat a wild animal.

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  AP
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