Less than two weeks after evading a California wildfire, a 25-pound bear cub escaped again — this time using his bandaged limbs to paw out of a rescue center, officials said.
The Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care reported Tuesday that Tamarack, the 6-month-old cub named after the fire that nearly killed him, escaped his enclosure and tunneled under an electric fence meant to contain him.
“He got out of the room and into the outdoor area and basically found a 6-inch-square of dirt that he dug into and squished himself out of the fence — all with burned paws and bandages,” said Greg Erfani, a Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care board member and the center’s spokesman.
“He is Houdini, I tell you.”
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is asking anyone around South Lake Tahoe to keep an eye out for the cub, especially at night, when he is expected to be most active.
“He’s not in any immediate danger, and he’s not a danger to anybody,” Erfani said, noting the cub is roughly the size of a cocker spaniel. “He’s probably more scared.”
Erfani said no one should try to approach the bear, because human movement would probably make the cub retreat further into hiding.
The Tamarack fire began July 4 and was caused by a lightning strike. It grew to 68,696 acres and is 82% contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Tamarack was discovered, dehydrated and worn out, in a backyard in Markleeville, California, shortly after evacuations for the neighborhood were lifted on July 25. The frightened cub’s paws were so badly burned that he tried to hobble away from his rescuers by walking on his elbows.
The wildlife care center’s workers cleaned and bandaged the cub’s paws, treating his wounds with a special procedure to graft tilapia fish skins onto the burned paws to quicken the healing.
The plan was to release Tamarack back into the wild in the winter or spring. Now, the rescuers hope they can find him first.
“He’s tough. He’s got burned paws and he did all this, so his desire to be free was greater than the cage we had him in,” Erfani said. “This is wildlife. It wants to be wild even at his own peril.”