An American black bear who was returned into the wild in early February after being rescued last summer from a smoldering north state forest, Li’l Smokey has awakened from his hibernation slumber.
Officials with Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care and the Anderson forester who rescued the injured bear cub in July said Thursday that officials at the state Department of Fish and Game informed them that they had picked up a live signal from the bear’s electronic transmitter.
The signal, which was received last Friday as DFG officials flew over the area, shows that Li’l Smokey was about 4.59 miles from where he was placed in a cozy den in the Klamath National Forest in Siskiyou County.
“This is a great indicator that he is alive and well,” said Tom Millham, secretary-treasurer of nonprofit Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care center, where Li’l Smokey was treated for his burn injuries. “Things look good.”
Adam Deem, the 33-year-old California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection forester, said Thursday that he learned Wednesday of Li’l Smokey’s electronic sighting.
“This is fantastic news,” Deem said.
It was Deem who spotted and rescued the injured and badly dehydrated Li’l Smokey as he was scouting the western flank of the Moon Fire near the border of Trinity and Shasta counties.
The forester admitted he has worried about Li’l Smokey’s safety since the bear was tranquilized and left on his own in the bear den.
“Every time a storm comes in, I wonder if he’s hunkered down in his den,” he said.
Both Deem and Millham said that Li’l Smokey is staying well within his release site.
“They (bears) have about a 10-mile range as their home,” Millham said.
Staying within that 10-mile range indicates to them that Li’l Smokey is finding sufficient forage.
Li’l Smokey was returned to the wild two months ago, but the exact location of the release site, which is considered to be excellent bear habitat, is being kept secret by DFG officials.
One of the bear’s ears was tagged with an electronic transmitter, which will allow the wildlife experts to monitor him for about a year.
But because of state budget cutbacks, it’s not known how often DFG officials will be checking on him.
Deem and Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, which still carries a Li’l Smokey blog, have won worldwide praise for their work to save the bear.
Deem is publishing an illustrated children’s book about his favorite bear, which he hopes will be finished and on sale in June.
In the meantime, Deem and Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care representatives will be staffing a booth at the upcoming Kool April Nites car show in Redding. That booth will offer information about the wildlife care nonprofit group, as well as Li’l Smokey items for sale.
Kool April Nites is from Wednesday to April 19 at the Redding Convention Center and this year’s event pays special recognition to firefighters.
Its annual poster and program even include a drawing of Li’l Smokey.