Burned Bear Recovering At Tahoe, Thanks To Many

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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA - It's a heartbreaking sight.

A young female black bear, her paws burned raw, her stomach, legs and muzzle singed.

And it's all the more sobering when you learn the burns on this little bear's injuries may be a days old. One can only imagine the pain she suffered during those days as her home burned around her.

But her story is also hopeful and inspiring.

Her case is unusual, but it fits in with all the other birds and beasts currently being cared for here.

She brings the number of bears to 10; elsewhere you'll find blue jays, coyotes and squirrels. A skunk was released into the wild just yesterday.

There's a heartwarming story behind each of the animals that find their way here. What makes Cinder's story exceptional is the number of people involved and the extraordinary effort.

She was found by a man who was literally sifting through the ashes of his destroyed home.

"She was trying to walk on her elbows because her paws were burned, looking for some shade because everything was burned," says Washington State Wildlife biologist Rick Beausoleleil.

The man fed her, gave her the name Cinder and decided to find help.

"They'd heard about us," says Tom Millham of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. "They called us and asked if we could care for her."

First they needed a pilot and a plane. A Seattle man volunteered, flying her to Tahoe this morning.

And here she met the Millhams and Dr. Willitts.

She'll remain under their care for the foreseeable future.

They've faced this before, one reason Washington state officials reached out to them.

Six years ago a cub named Little Smokey arrived here, having been burned in a fire near Redding.

He was nursed back to health and returned to the wild.

"Before Little Smokey we would have looked at this and said this is horrible," says Dr. Willitts. "We know what he came through. We can be more optimistic."

That she's already begun to heal is a good sign, but she was already weakened, underweight. Her stay here may be long.

At the end, if all goes well, is a return trip to the Pacific Northwest and a life in the wild.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is a non-profit organization. If you'd like to find out more about their work and how you can help, click on Hot Topics. You'll find a link to their website.

They're also on Facebook.