Two bears that suffered painful burns while getting out of Southern California’s wildfires experienced an unusual way of receiving medical aid.
Veterinarians used fish skin to bandage animals’ paws, Mashable reports. The bears, along with a young mountain lion that had less serious injuries, were treated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife after the recent Thomas wilfdires that swept through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The wildfires late last year were among the worst in California’s history. The Thomas Fire was the biggest ever documented, razing some 273,400 acres.
A statement given by the CDFW mentioned that the bears suffered severe injuries, along with “oozing wounds, and, in some cases, paw pads that were completely burned off.”
Senior wildlife veterinarian Deana Clifford and chief of integrative medicine at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis treated the animals by applying fresh tilapia skin on the burned areas instead of cloth bandages.
The veterinarians used fish skin because of the collagen levels present and moisture retention abilities that are the same as human skin. Researchers in Brazil have already used fish skin instead of human skin grafts to treat burn victims. However, the process has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people in the United States.
Peyton and Clifford cut grafts of clean tilapia skin and sewed them directly onto the bears’ paws while they were anesthesized. To keep the animals from eating the skin, they wrapped the paws in corn husks and rice paper. The mountain lion did eat his fish skin bandages.
One of the first things that the bear did was stand up after we applied them. She was more mobile, which in my mind is a huge success for pain control.
But the path to recovery is long, and there is a need to hasten the treatment in order to return the bears to the wild as soon as possible. The bears also received acupuncture.