LAKE CITY, Fla. --
The saga of the two bears rescued during the "Bugaboo" fire that swept through Columbia and Baker counties in May has reached a happy ending.
A team of biologists and veterinarians from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Disneys Animal Kingdom and University of Florida Veterinary Medical Center (UF VMC) released two bears back into the Osceola National Forest Tuesday.
The FWC responded to reports of an injured bear with a cub in the Osceola National Forest on Mothers Day, May 13. The bears had been caught up in the fire that raged through the forest.
The FWC bear capture team, along with help from members of the Columbia County Fire Department, Columbia County Public Works, The Forestry Company and MA Rigony in Perry, rescued the two animals and took them to the UF VMC in Gainesville. The sow suffered third-degree burns on all four feet. The cub was dehydrated but untouched by the fire.
After receiving emergency medical care at the UF VMC, the bears were moved May 18 to Disneys Animal Kingdom for medical treatment and rehabilitation. The sow and her nursing cub were held in special areas to prevent regular human contact.
During the past month, Disneys Animal Kingdom veterinarians treated the burns, changed her bandages regularly, and fed the bears a natural diet that included berries, cabbage palm and fish to get them ready for release into the wild.
"The black bear experienced significant trauma, and we are very pleased with her recovery," said Dr. Scott Terrell, Walt Disney World Animal Programs. "The Disney team of animal experts took great pride in rehabilitating these bears, and we are grateful for the partnership between all the institutions that made their treatment and release as natural as possible."
"Shes been a great mom," said Matt Pollock, regional biologist at the FWCs Olustee Field Office. "She nursed the cub the whole time she was in rehab, even when she was in great pain."
"We all worked together to make this happen. This has been a great partnership between FWC, UF and Disney. And I like the fact that we have a happy ending for these two bears. We were able to release them within five miles of the sows historical home range," Pollock said. "They needed to get back 'home' and be wild again."
- May 15, 2007: UF Vets Care For Bears Rescued From Wildfire