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He weighed less than 5 pounds when firefighters scooped him up from the smoldering border of the Thompson Ridge Fire last June.
Orphaned, injured and near death, Redondo the bear had to be bottle fed when he first arrived at Cottonwood Rehab (CWR) in Española. A broken leg and a few burns didn’t help matters, but Dr. Kathleen Ramsay and her team nursed him back to health.
After that it was easy as Redondo put on weight and played with his best friend, Sandia. Physically, Redondo was fine but he didn’t develop the healthy fear of man or the aggressive behavior to survive in the wild. It looked like Redondo was headed for a zoo until one day, two weeks ago, a man with a paintball gun showed up at CWR. (Paintballing is a humane and effective technique used to “rough up” bears and instill fear of man).
“We brought in a former NM Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) expert to do the job,” noted Ramsay. “The bears didn’t know who he was but by the time he finished all 13 bears in our facility knew man is bad and to stay away.”
Bears usually encounter man when food is scarce in their natural habitat. During recent years drought conditions have dried up food sources and led to an influx of bear sightings in populated areas. However, the NMDGF notes bear sightings in Albuquerque are at a dramatically slower pace than a year ago when the department logged 400 sightings.
“We had some moisture in the fall and this past April which helped forage production,” said Ramsay. “The Memorial Day weekend rains across the state should also help boost that production.”
By Thursday, May 22 Redondo was ready. He was healed. He put on solid 165 pounds since June. And he had a new attitude to take to the neighborhood in the Manzano Mountains. He also took something else; his buddy, Sandia. They were released together, paw in paw.