After Suffering Major Burns, Two Bears are Healing Thanks to Fish Skin

Late last year the Thomas fire wreaked havoc in southern California, burning up nearly 282,000 acres of land, killing 15 people and destroying thousands of homes.

It also caused major damage to some of the area’s wildlife, including two female adult bears.

On December 9, officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) discovered one bear hiding in a backyard aviary near Ojai, a small town nestling in the mountains above Ventura. Two weeks later they found a second bear in a wooded area not far from the town.

Both bears had suffered third-degree burns that had caused their paw pads to disappear, and one was in so much pain she was unable to stand. 

The two were transferred to the CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory near Sacramento, and Dr. Jamie Peyton, a veterinarian at the University of California at Davis and an expert on animal burns, was called in to help.

On first examination, Peyton believed the injuries would take at least six months to heal. That was before she came up with a brilliant idea. She knew that fish skin had been used successfully to treat human burn victims in Brazil, so she had a Portuguese-speaking colleague call up a doctor there and get all the details.

This treatment had never been used before on human or animal burn victims in the U.S., but when tilapia skin was applied as bandages to the two bears, the recovery period became a matter of weeks. 

That was super important because during an ultrasound examination, Peyton’s team had realized that the second bear was pregnant. If she gave birth in captivity, there was a good chance that she would reject her baby.

You can see how Peyton and her team carried out this amazing process here:

Paws-wrapped-in-corn-husks

Photo Credit: Screenshot from online video

To protect the bandages, the team proceeded to wrap the paws in rice paper and corn husks.

“We wrap their feet like tamales,” Peyton told the Washington Post. “They were known either as ‘tamale feet’ or ‘California bear roll feet.’”

On January 17, the bears were driven to their new home: dens in the Los Padres National Forest, close to where they were found, specially constructed by CDFW officials out of branches, logs and brush.

Trail cameras were set up nearby to monitor their progress. Peyton’s team hopes to see a cub in the next few weeks. 

These two female bears are not the only creatures who have benefited from the fish treatment.

Last month Care2’s Laura Goldman brought us the story of a 5-month-old mountain lion, rescued shortly before Christmas, who became the third animal to have sterilized tilapia skin sutured to his four paws to promote healing.

In case you’re wondering, using tilapia skin bandages on humans is unlikely to happen any time soon in the U.S., where each year around 30,000 human donors provide tissue for transplant.

But Peyton hopes this treatment will be used on burned animals in the future.

“I think the wildlife definitely presents us with different challenges,” Peyton said. “Now, these few animals change the way we may treat burns in the future for other animals.”

Photo Credit: Screenshot from online video

77 comments

Marie W
Marie W19 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner6 months ago

Human hunters scum of the Earth are still allowed to murder these bears by the thousands. Let's have a hunting season for hunter slime.

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

Very interesting

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Caitlin B
Past Member 6 months ago

Thank you

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Caitlin B
Past Member 6 months ago

Thank you

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Marija M
Marija M6 months ago

Tks for sharing.

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Michael F
Michael Friedmann6 months ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Georgina M
Georgina Elizab M6 months ago

I did read about this and found it very interesting.tyfs

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