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Doctors Use Fish Skin Therapy to Heal Young Bear Injured in Carr Forest Fire

A team of wildlife veterinarians used fish skin bandages to treat a bear badly burned in a Northern California wildfire.

Tilapia skin attaching to the bear's paws. / Image: Travis VanZant
Tilapia skin attaching to the bear's paws. / Image: Travis VanZant

The Northern California wildfires have claimed over 172,000 acres of forest, putting both humans and animals at risk. A recent article from Record Searchlight covered an uplifting story about a team of wildlife veterinarians who employed a unique form of treatment to help a young bear burned by the fires. A team of workers fixing utility poles in the mountains near Whiskeytown Lake, CA encountered a bear licking its badly burned paws. They quickly alerted wildlife officials to help the bear.

After tranquilizing the bear, a team took her into the lab where they attached sterilized tilapia skin to the bear’s feet. This experimental treatment has been used just a handful of times; one instance was last year to help two adult bears injured by forest fires in Southern California. The fish skin performs better than synthetic bandages as they provide direct, steady pressure to wounds and prevents bacteria from entering. The team is optimistic the bear will make a full recovery and soon return to nature.

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