BOISE -- Evacuation orders are still in effect for areas impacted by the 221,000 acre Mustang Complex Fire currently burning near the Idaho / Montana border. Fire managers say the huge blaze may be impossible to contain without rain or snow.
However, people aren't the only ones being forced out of their homes because of this fire. One victim of the Mustang fire has gained national popularity: a black bear cub named Bernard, or "Boo Boo".
FIREFIGHTERS IDENTIFY HURT CUB
A group of USFS firefighters spotted Boo Boo last week. When captured, they learned his paws were severely burned.
"Fires burn in the woods and in the mountaintops and it drives all the animals down," engine boss Larry Colozzi said. "[Boo Boo] was on the trail hurt. We got about 10 or 15 feet from him and took some pictures of him and then we got a little closer and he kind of scampered up a tree. His paws were hurt so he was going kind of slow."
The firefighters discussed how they could help the cub at an end-of-shift meeting.
"I told the rest of our about 30 people in our division that I found a baby black bear and he goes by the name of Boo Boo," Colozzi said. "He looked like Yogi Bear's little partner, Boo Boo. That's how we came up with that name."
Firefighters reported the young bear to Forest Service officials. Idaho Fish and Game experts then came to get Boo Boo for treatment.
"He's a brave little bear!" Colozzi said.
BOO BOO GETTING TREATMENT
Now, the cub is at the Idaho Humane Society, isolated from humans, except for a couple daily vet visits.
Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Idaho Humane Society says his top concern is to help Boo Boo get better.
"The first goal is to save Bernard, or Boo Boo's life, and the second priority is to try to make sure that he doesn't get used to being around people," said Rosenthal. "There is a possibility with a bear like this -- if he does not become habituated to humans -- that he could possibly be placed back into a den in early spring and released."
Boo Boo has now become a symbol of the danger of wildfires, a bit like Smokey Bear, and firefighters are thrilled to know he's gotten some attention.
"I couldn't believe it. I just got home this morning and my wife recorded all the news programs, and he's a famous little guy!" Colozzi said.
The plan right now is for Bernard, or Boo Boo, to stay at the Humane Society until his paws are healed up. Veterinarians are guessing that will take about a month.
Once Boo Boo is healed enough, veterinarians say the cub will likely head to a bear rehab facility where he will live with other bears and learn how to go into the wild. Rosenthal says Idaho Fish and Game will make decisions on what happens next.
For more information, visit IDFG on the web or call 208-334-3700.