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Black bear cub Lil' Smokey released back into the wilderness today

February 5, 2009 |  5:29 pm

Lil' Smokey receiving treatment by DFG wildlife veterinarians in Sacramento shortly after being rescued..

Lil' Smokey, the orphaned black bear cub rescued by a firefighter during the July 2008 Moon fire near Redding, was released back into the wilderness today. The cub had been in rehabilitation and treatment for severe burns and dehydration at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care center since being found by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection forester Adam Deem.

The 11-month old male bear was released at a remote site in the Klamath National Forest by California Department of Fish and Game personnel.  While the actual release site is being kept concealed, it is a natural bear den located within 75 miles of where the cub was originally found. DFG outfitted Lil' Smokey with an electronic transmitter before release so that his movements can be periodically monitored.

"Rehabilitating and releasing orphaned bear cubs is a rewarding part of our bear management program," said DFG staff environmental scientist Doug Updike. "This is a second chance at survival for a cub that would certainly have died."

The little bear generated much public attention and concern since being rescued.  LTWC created a blog and also installed a webcam in his cage so that the public could keep up on his care and rehabilitation. The cam today shows the empty cage where Lil' Smokey lived, with a handwritten sign in it that reads "Gone Home."

Lil' Smokey at his release today.

--Kelly Burgess

Top photo: Lil' Smokey receiving treatment by DFG wildlife veterinarians in Sacramento shortly after being rescued. Credit: Debra Hamilton/DFG

Bottom photo: Lil' Smokey at his release today. Credit: Greg Barnette/Redding Record-Searchlight

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