On June 9, the PAWS Wildlife Center admitted a starving, severely anemic, 20-pound yearling bear cub. The cub's condition was so grave that he required a blood transfusion, the first PAWS veterinary staff had ever performed on a bear, to save his life. The transfusion gave the ailing bear the boost he needed to reverse his downward slide. Within 24 hours he had gone from nearly unconscious to active and alert, and he continued steadily down the road to recovery without looking back.
Release day arrived for the bear on September 13. During the three months since his admission, he had gained 130 pounds and had grown into an impressive sub-adult bear. He was released near the spot at which he had been found in Mt. Rainier National Park, and the park ranger who found him had the privilege of opening the cage to set the bear free. The photos below tell the story.
Weighing only about 20 pounds when he was admitted, the bear topped the scales at 154 pounds on release day. Here he is seen during his pre-release exam.
The bear experienced a "hard release" using two Karelian Bear Dogs and shotguns loaded with beanbag projectiles. These techniques help drive home the point to the bear that humans are to be avoided. Avoiding humans will be the single most important factor in the bear's long term survival. Here we see bear dog Savutie working the bear before release.
The Mt. Rainier National Park ranger that found the bear opened the door to set him free. The bear peeked out to see another ranger waiting to hit him with a beanbag shell. At this point, he also looked at the ranger above him and then peeked underneath the cage as if he was weighing all his options.
Eventually the bear made a break for it. Encouraged by barking dogs, beanbags and shouts of "Go on bear!", he ran full speed into the forest. As you read this, the bear is living wild and free in the wilderness at Mt. Rainier.
View KOMO News coverage of the release.