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By Kellie Benz, PAWS Staff

Before you go imagining what fun rehabilitating a teenage bear might be, consider this; we don’t want American Black Bear 2014-1317 to know anything about us here at PAWS, we don’t want her to bond with us, to appreciate the time and care we’re taking for her. In fact, we hope never to see her again once she is released.

While that might sound cold, it’s actually the kindest care we can offer her.

So it goes that when it’s time to deliver food to a wildlife patient at PAWS, like American Black Bear 2014-1317, not a word is said. She is remotely shifted to a clean enclosure, safely tucked away from staff. We clean her empty enclosure and search for leftover food items from the prior day. There is no face to face or verbal interaction between caretakers and bear patients.

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American Black Bear 2014-1317 arrived at PAWS a few months back, delivered to us by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officers when she was discovered frequenting garbage bins in Renton. This juvenile bear was much thinner than a bear her age should be.

She had obviously not found her own territory in the wild due to the enticing aromas coming from people’s food scraps outside their homes. She was a wild bear with wild instincts and she deserved a second chance to make it on her own in her own habitat.

Thanks to the care at PAWS, she’s now over 20lbs heavier and gobbling up a steady diet of bear-appropriate food. She is curious and interested, with a preference for long branches with leaves and buds and fruit to discover along the way. She’ll eat everything we give her, everything that is, except radishes.

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Her distaste for one root vegetable aside, American Black Bear 2014-1317 is growing every day and getting stronger. She still has a way to go and she still needs to gain more weight. But every indication says she’s doing well.

If all goes according to plan, she’ll be retrieved by the same WDFW Officer who brought her to us and returned to the wilderness, away from garbage bins, where she can be more successful.

Once released, her time with PAWS will be a forgettable experience that she puts behind her as she prepares to find a den of her own to sleep in through the upcoming winter months.

In the PAWS Wildlife Hospital kitchen there is a flurry of activity these days, rehabilitators and volunteers sharing information while chopping up fruits and vegetables and weighing portions. In another room, PAWS staff note the details of progress for each animal into our database system.

Black bears aren’t the only animals PAWS cares for day to day - there are about 120 different species spending time at PAWS hospital this summer. Native species like deer and owls and Harbor seals and hummingbirds – all with specific diets, unique needs and for some, routine and complicated surgeries and medical care – are finding their way to health and wholeness at PAWS as we speak. It’s a busy time of year, but one filled with hope, too.

American Black Bear 2014-1317 is one of many species who are getting a second chance thanks to PAWS Donors. Click here and help us help animals.

PAWS Wildlife always needs dedicated volunteers – find out how you can help.

Follow our PAWS Wildlife blog.

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