Newly formed Wildlife Disaster Network rescues, rehabilitates animals burned in CA wildfires

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After weeks in an animal hospital, a healthy ending for a black bear burned in the North Complex Fire, which was released back into the wild last week.

"You've got to treat the whole animal, not just the burns. It might be fluids for dehydration, food because often times when they can't walk because we see mostly paw pad injuries, so they can't get food and they're hungry," said Dr. Deana Clifford, senior wildlife veterinarian with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is leading a new project called the Wildlife Disaster Network. The 370-pound bear was its first patient.

RELATED: Puppy rescued from wildfire rubble in Northern California

Along with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, they created a program to help injured animals, from search and rescue to rehabilitation and release.

They employ innovative treatments, like a biologic bandage made from tilapia fish skin that protects burn wounds and accelerates healing.

The network is modeled after a program created for animals injured in oil spills.

"Right now we're not in the middle of an oil spill, but we're in the middle of a wildfire crisis and we can take that network concept and do better for the wild animals that are in California," said Dr. Clifford.

ANIMAL RESCUE: Oakland Zoo takes in 2 more orphaned mountain lion cubs rescued from Northern California wildfire
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The Oakland Zoo says both new mountain lion cubs are females, and will soon be introduced to the first rescued cub, Captain Cal.



Captain Cal, a mountain lion kitten, was found by firefighters burned, underweight, dehydrated, and with multiple infections. He's being treated at the Oakland Zoo, which is part of the Wildlife Disaster Network.

Two more orphaned mountain lions just arrived at the zoo, after their mother was reportedly burned in another fire.

Oakland Zoo's, Dr. Alex Herman, says the damage to California wildlife, because of fires, is catastrophic.

"I think Captain Cal's situation is such a visible, tangible, poignant reminder of the climate change crisis that we're in California right now. And a reminder to all of us that there's a lot we can do and we can really mobilize to address this situation."

WATCH: Dog rescued from Zogg Fire rides co-pilot with CAL FIRE crew
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A dog rescued from the Zogg Fire in Shasta County is now riding co-pilot in the passenger seat with a local CAL FIRE crew.



Dr. Herman says Captain Cal and the two female mountain lion kittens will meet on Wednesday. The idea is to give them time to grow and heal together, at which point they will be transferred to another animal facility. She says donations to the Oakland Zoo and the Wildlife Disaster Network, will ensure California's animals get the care they need.


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