Trial of fish skins to treat bears burned in California wildfire appears effective
GOLETA, Calif. — Officials tracking two bears that were badly burned in the largest wildfire in California history say the animals are settling back into their home in the wild after receiving unusual treatment for their injured paws.
Recent photos and GPS tracking data show the female bears appear to be in good health as they move through Los Padres National Forest northwest of Los Angeles, news station KABC-TV reported Friday.
The adult bears were released into the forest last month after getting care for third-degree burns they suffered in December’s Thomas fire. A mountain lion cub also was treated for singed paws.
One bear was pregnant, but officials said last week that they weren’t sure if the baby was born yet.
Veterinarians treating the animals had stitched fish skins to their burned paws, then wrapped them with bandages of rice paper and corn husks. Officials decided on the treatment after reading about trials on human burn victims in Brazil that placed treated skins from tilapia, a ubiquitous species of fish, on the injuries to soothe pain and promote healing.
Doctors routinely graft skin from humans and pigs to burns, but fish skins have the advantage of being more readily available.
One of the bears initially would lie down continuously to spare her burned paws, said Jamie Peyton, chief of the integrative medicine service at the University of California, Davis’ veterinarian school. After the fish-skin treatment, the bear stood up and was walking around with its companion, Peyton said last month.
The results argue for more trials of the fish skins for burns, the vets said.
The mountain lion was too young when injured to be able to survive in the wild, and officials planned to turn him over to a care facility for lifelong confinement, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in January.