Vets use fish skin to treat bear cub burned in California wildfire

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. – Veterinarians at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife used tilapia skins to help heal a black bear's paws that were burned in the Carr Fire.

"She was lying in a tiny little patch of ground that was the only piece that wasn’t burned. Everything around her was burned," CDFW veterinarian Deana Clifford told KTXL.

The bear's paw pads were burnt raw. If she were a dog or a cat, veterinarians would put new bandages on every day or so and they’d physically stop her from chewing the bandages off because they’re made of plastics and other unhealthy materials.

"We can’t do that with a wild bear. Every time we work with them, we have to immobilize them and anesthetize them," Clifford said. "And that’s traumatic for them."

That's where the dressings of tilapia skin, corn husks, and rice paper come in, and it's working.

Veterinarians say the goal is to get the bear healthy enough to get back into the wild in time to hibernate.