Born to be wild

Born to be wild

Hearts around the world melted last summer with the story of the 416 bear, an orphaned cub whose paws were severely burnt in the blaze. Discovered by firefighters, she was rescued by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which brought her to a wildlife rehab facility in Del Norte. Photos of her bandaged paws became a viral sensation as well as a ray of hope in the summer’s devastation.

Fast forward seven months, and the 416 bear has made a full recovery. During her time in Del Norte, she lived in a large enclosure with several other bears in conditions meant to mimic the bears’ natural habitat. The bears slept in metal “dens” surrounded by rocks, trees, boulders, food and other “bear” necessities. Eventually, wildlife officials deemed the 416 bear fit for reentry. Last Fri., Jan. 25, (cue the theme from “Born Free”) she was taken back to the wild.

The cub, now close to a year old, was placed in a undisclosed location in the mountains northwest of Durango. But not to worry, wildlife officials didn’t just throw her to the bears, so to speak. She and her den mate were fast asleep in their 4-foot-square enclosure, which was buried with brush, snow and straw. In a few weeks, a wildlife official will return to remove the door so the bears can emerge come spring, and the 416 bear will go from media sensation to just being a bear again.

Matt Thorpe, CPW’s wildlife manager for the Durango area, said he’s optimistic about her prospects. The cub, who weighed only 10 pounds when she arrived, packed on an impressive 80 pounds at the facility. “Making it in the wild is tough for young bears,” Thorpe said. “We’ve done everything we can to give the 416 bear a second chance at a good, wild life.”

Tissues, please.