LOS ANGELES  The largest wildfire in California’s history threatened not only humans, but also wildlife desperate to escape the flames.

The Thomas fire proved too much for two female bears — one of them pregnant — and a 5-month-old mountain lion. All suffered severe burns to their paws.

“Getting them back to the wild is vital because we don’t want them to get used to being around people,” said Dr. Jamie Peyton, a veterinarian with UC Davis.

bear treatment 2 UC Davis Vets Nurse Wildfire Burned Bears Back To Health

A bear gets treatment for burns at UC Davis after the Thomas fire (Credit: California Dept. Of Fish And Wildlife)

For treatment, veterinarians turned to alternative methods. They attached fish skins packed with high levels of collagen to their paws, and then wrapped them in rice paper and corn husks. It’s the first time the procedure had been performed in the U.S. but it now gives hope to future burn victims.

The bears also received acupuncture, chiropractic care and laser therapy.

While the mountain lion kept eating the fish skin off its feet, the treatments were enough to get the bears back into the wild in just a matter of weeks. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife built them new dens to replace the ones lost in the fire, making it a happy ending to a bear’s tale.


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