Li’l Smokey: The Latest News

Here’s yesterday’s news on Li’l Smokey. I’m hoping he’ll be released in a wildlife preserve, but the rehabers insist it would be best to dump him in the middle of winter, in the woods, all alone, with feet that will never be normal. Makes me wonder sometimes about these “booklearned” experts.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A badly blistered American black bear cub whose plight has touched the hearts of people around the world is continuing his recovery from second- and third-degree burns to his paws after his rescue last month from the hot embers of a Shasta-Trinity National Forest wildfire.

“His paws are definitely healing,” Cheryl Millham, executive director of the nonprofit Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, said Tuesday. “His toes are coming along beautifully.”

Affectionately called “Li’l Smokey,” the approximately 6-month-old bear cub, who also was badly dehydrated, weighed only about 8 pounds when a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighter plucked him from the scalding ashes of the Moon Fire.

He now weighs more than 16 pounds.

It’s hoped that Li’l Smokey’s severe burns will heal well enough that he can be released back into the Shasta-Trinity National Forest during next year’s hibernation season, Millham said.

If he’s still not well enough to be returned to the forest by then, the care center might try for early spring instead, she said.

But if it’s eventually determined that Li’l Smokey cannot be released into the wild because of his injuries, she said, he will be placed within a wildlife sanctuary. Sanctuaries in Texas and Maine already have offered him a home, she said.

“He will be released or put in a sanctuary,” Millham said. “He will never be sitting in a zoo.”

Cal Fire firefighter Adam Deem, 32, of Anderson came upon the injured black bear on July 17 while he was scouting the northwest flank of the Moon Fire in the Grass Valley Creek area near Buckhorn Summit. The cub’s mother could not be found.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, which was established in the late 1970s and has released more than 12,200 birds and animals back to the wild, posts updates on Li’l Smokey and his condition on its Web site every other day.

That Web site, which also features a number of photographs of the bear cub, is at

For further updates, Li’l Smokey has a new BLOG.


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