Cinder the black bear is successfully making it through her first winter since recovering from injuries suffered in a wildfire. However, the bear who was released alongside Cinder has been killed by a hunter, according to Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife bear biologist Rich Beausoleil.
Cinder, then two and a half, was released into the wild with Kaulana, then one and a half, in 2015.
Both bears were collared and officials tracked them over several months. Cinder made treks over tens of miles, but Kaulana stayed close to the release site.
Around October, Beausoleil reports, a hunter killed Kaulana. It was within bear hunting season and a legal kill.
The information gathered from Kaulana's collar will be used in research on black bears in Washington.
Cinder's collar continues to send signals to Beausoleil, who is monitoring her movement and progress. She is nesting like other females her age, Beausoleil said. Most bears will rouse and start foraging for food in a couple months.
Cinder's progress is incredible considering what she survived.
She made headlines and even inspired a children's book after the historic Carlton Complex wildfire ripped through her native forest and destroyed homes.
When Cinder was found in the Methow Valley in 2014, she was severely underweight and crawled on her elbows because the hot ground had melted her paws. Her prognosis was dreary.
After a year at Idaho Black Bear Rehab, officials decided it was time for Cinder to return to her natural habitat in central Washington. She made an incredible recovery and a new friend.
A younger, male bear -- Kaulana -- who had been found around central Washington, orphaned at about 6-months old. He wouldn't leave Cinder's side in rehab, so officials made an unorthodox decision to release Cinder back to the wild with Kaulana.
Karelian bear dogs joined WDFW officers in June 2015 for a successful release near Leavenworth.
(© 2016 KING)