In August 2018, massive walls of flames engulfed several California towns, toppling transmission towers and leveling entire neighborhoods, causing emergency evacuations and rescue efforts from many, including crews from Edison Power Constructors who traveled from Los Angeles to assist PG&E in damage control and rebuild efforts.
In the afternoon of August 2, 2018, after replacing fire damaged utility poles near Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, an EPC crew was making the rounds and documenting additional fire damage when they heard a curious sound coming from an area next to Crystal Creek.
There, to their surprise, was a yearling female bear cub, crying and licking her severely burned paws.
After finding the injured cub, EPC crews notified wildlife officials who rushed to the scene, tranquilized the cub, and transported her three-and-a-half hours to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s investigations lab in Rancho Cordova for treatment.
Doctors from the University of California, Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, assessed the bear’s burns before deciding on a treatment plan in collaboration with wildlife officials.
Tilapia fish skins – a kind of “biological band-aid” was the treatment decided upon. These sterilized skins were stitched directly onto the bear’s healthy tissue surrounding the areas with third-degree burns. Tilapia skin has two types of collagen that have been shown to promote faster healing, are durable and will stay on an animal longer than synthetic bandages. These experimental “fish bandages” were used successfully on two adult bears in December 2017, when they were rescued from the Thomas Fire in Southern California. The bear cub found by the EPC crew is the third bear to ever receive this treatment.
Dr. Jamie Peyton, the veterinarian who treated the cub told ABC news, “These wild animals definitely hit home to how devastating the fires are to people, their pets, but also these wild animals that wouldn’t survive without our help.”
Thanks to the Edison Power Constructor Restoration Crews who were quick to react, within a few days the medical team was able to return the bear cub to its natural habitat. They are optimistic the cub will make a full recovery in due time.
Here’s a short video of this heartwarming rescue and treatment of the young bear.