Tiny orphaned cub nursed back to health and back in the wild

LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- Wildlife workers had one goal in mind when they took in a tiny orphaned bear cub: nurse her back to health and return her to the wild.

It took more than a year, but they finally sent the cub off on her own.

The baby bear came to the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood after she was found in Oregon, separated from her mother. She was underweight, anemic and weak.

"Both she and and sibling were starving," recalls PAWS Naturalist Kevin Mack. "Unfortunately the other cub didn't make it. This cub was brought in to us. She only weighed 3.5 to four pounds."

Despite being one of the smallest cubs PAWS has ever rescued, she was already showing a strong personality.

When he gave her an exam last year, veterinarian Dr. John Huckabee said, "She is cute and adorable but she is a ball of fire. She doesn't want anything to do with people are we're going to keep it that way as long as she's here with us."

That wound up being for a year, during which time she grew and grew to more than 20 times her original weight.

And her spitfire personality? That grew too.

"There were two other bears in with her that weighed 200 pounds apiece. She weighed 88 pounds and she didn't take any trouble from them whatsoever," Mack said. "She exerted herself on them and they bowed to her wishes."

Now a healthy, strong-willed yearling, Oregon wildlife officers released her near the area where she was originally found.

She was timid at first, stepping gingerly on the dry grass that apparently prickled her paws, and glancing nervously at the people who managed to raise her without making her comfortable around humans.

"These animals, we care about them deeply but we don't want them to think of us as their friends."

They knew they were successful when the bear gave them a final wary look, then disappeared into the forest.

To read more about the release, visit the PAWS blog.