PHOTOS: Lowry Park Zoo caring for bear cub rescued from fire

The 6 lb. male cub was nicknamed "Smokey Junior" by the Lake County firefighters who rescued him last week. Lowry Park Zoo photo

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — An adorable 6 lb. bear cub who was rescued from brush fires in Lake County is now being cared for at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

The male cub was nicknamed “Smokey Junior” by the Lake County firefighters who rescued him last week. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers transported the cub to the zoo on Sunday, April 10 for nutrition and care.

FWC crews are continuing efforts to locate the bear’s mother. Lowry Park Zoo staff is caring for the young cub using FWC protocols, as it has for numerous others, with the goal of reintroduction to wild habitat.

Smokey Junior is estimated to be 9 weeks old. Initial observations indicate the cub is alert and reactive with a good appetite. He is feeding well and has been drinking a milk replacement food supplement for animals (see photos).

Zoo officials say the cub has mild singeing of the hair, but otherwise appears healthy and strong.  He is currently housed in the zoo’s new veterinary hospital where he will be closely monitored by the zoo’s veterinary team, with minimal interaction to reduce the likelihood of imprinting or habituation.

When the cub reaches 10 to 15 pounds, wildlife officials hope to transition him to another facility in preparation for release later this year.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo works with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to provide veterinary support for native Florida wildlife including manatees, panthers,  black bears, bald eagles, whooping cranes and gopher tortoises.

The newest arrival is the 13th black bear to receive care at the Zoo, which has provided a home for a total of five black bears including three current residents– two young females and an adult male.

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