A male Florida black bear that appears to have burned his front feet in a wildfire in the Mt. Plymouth area of Lake County will likely fare well if he is left alone to heal, according to bear biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
"Our hope is that the bear will hunker down undisturbed and out of sight in thick cover so his burned paws can heal naturally," said Mike Orlando, assistant bear management coordinator for the FWC. "He doesn't need to eat or drink right now because he already has plenty of fat stored up for the winter hibernation."
Based on the video shot by a resident, and witness accounts, the bear's only external injuries appear to be his front paws, particularly his pads.
"We don't plan to try to locate him, because such well-intentioned efforts would stress him and cause him to run, which would likely cause more damage to his feet than if he can just rest and heal," said Orlando. "His paws can heal naturally if he is left alone in a bed or den deep in the woods."
When bears hibernate they go into a very lethargic state and, even in Florida, can stay in one place for a couple of weeks, awake but in a sort of sleepy state. According to Orlando, that is what this bear was likely doing when the wildfire caught him by surprise. Since his coat doesn't appear to be burned, it's likely he avoided the blaze, but had to traverse hot, burned ground to escape the fire.
"We hope he stays in a den and out of sight so his wounds can heal quickly. However, if he does appear and people see him, we ask that they leave him alone and call our Wildlife Alert Hotline - 888-404-3922 - to let us know the location," said Orlando.