'He looks like a healthy bear now'

'He looks like a healthy bear now' »Play Video
LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- In June, we showed you the cinnamon colored bear who became a first for the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood. Now we have an update on how he's doing.

The bear was more than a year old but looked more like a young cub. He was fur and bones, emaciated and anemic.

PAWS veterinarians gave him a blood transfusion with donor blood from a healthier bear. That began a major turnaround.

The bear gained 120 pounds in just three months.

Wildlife agents and veterinarians agree he's ready to live on his own. First, there was a reunion with the Mt. Rainier National Park ranger who started the rescue efforts.

"He looks a lot different than last time I saw him," commented Ranger Uwe Nehring as he walked up to the caged bear. "He looks like a healthy bear now."

Rangers would normally let nature take its course if a bear is ill in the wilds of the park. But this was a safety hazard.

"People were seeing him," Nehrnig said. "Spotting him fairly often and seeing him hanging out alongside the roads system which is not good."

The trick is to teach the bear to do the opposite and avoid humans. Park rangers and wildlife agents with specially trained dogs take positions around the cage.

When the door opens, freedom is close. But the bear peeks out of his cage, shy to emerge.

It takes several minutes of sniffing and looking before he finally steps into the barrage of yelling and barking dogs. Agents shoot him with beanbags.

He runs into the woods with a healthy fear of humans, and the instincts of a wild bear.

It's meaningful for the people who came together to rescue him.

"To get him back into the national park where he came from, I think he's going to be successful," said Wildlife Officer Bruce Richards. "They like it, I like it and I think the people in the state of Washington like it. What's not to like?"

It's also another success story for PAWS, where workers use as little human interaction as possible.

For example, feeding the bear doesn't always mean setting out easy eats.

"We provided him with all kinds of natural foods," said PAWS Kevin Mack. "We provided him with logs that he could tear apart to get at the insect larvae inside, and he dug right in. His natural instincts are intact. He's strong. He's well fed now. He has the skills he needs to survive in the wild, so really the rest is now up to him."

His first job?

He'll fatten up even more and within a couple months, hibernate, back home in Rainier National Park.