Boo Boo the bear may spend this winter eating and napping, rather than hibernating in a den, according to the director of the Snowdon Wildlife Refuge near McCall.
He's spending his days climbing trees and eating huckleberries with three other little black bears two males and a female. The bears need to weigh 60 to 80 pounds to hibernate over the winter, when they lose about one-third of their weight.
"I think we'll have the little bears over the winter," said Linda DeEulis, executive director of Snowdon and the person who donated the land for the refuge, which includes the 2-acre enclosure that the black bear cubs are in.
"They will get up, eat and nap a lot," DeEulis said. Next winter, they can dig their own dens or use one of the artificial dens (wood lean-tos).
DeEulis said all bears are born in January or February, when their mothers are hibernating. They typically weight just a pound.
The cubs need to gain about 6 pounds per day from August to October in order to be fat enough to stay healthy while hibernating, DeEulis said.
Boo Boo's life was interrupted by a wildfire near Salmon. In late August, firefighters found him clinging to a tree.
Idaho Fish & Game officials had concerns about whether Boo Boo, who suffered second-degree burns to all four of his paws, would suffer a life-threatening infection or lose full use of his paws. But his paws healed quickly under the care of veterinarians at the Idaho Humane Society, and the cub was transported to Snowdon on Sept. 14.
DeEulis doesn't call the cub Boo Boo. She refers to him as "the fire bear."
"I think the bears need to be respected as the beautiful animals they are and not made into cartoon characters," she said, adding that the public can call him whatever they want to. "I think the worst we can do as rehabbers is to try to encourage animals to not be wild."
Snowdon, which is a nonprofit, posted a video of the bear's release and several photos of him climbing a tree and exploring his new surroundings. The group has received about $500 in donations for the care of Boo Boo, and they can always use more money for food and veterinary care for the wildlife they are rehabilitating, including raptors.
Public access to the wildlife refuges is generally not allowed, except when an animal is being delivered. But on Saturday, the facility opens its doors for their annual picnic and the public may get a glimpse, from a distance, of Boo Boo in the 2-acre enclosure.
The picnic is noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Here's the number to call for information on how to get to the refuge: 208-634-8050.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413