• Bear burned by wildfire as a cub released back into the wild

    By: WFTV.com

    Updated:

    A black bear cub that captured hearts across Central Florida was released Wednesday into the wild. 

    Smokey Jr. was found with singed fur and burned paws in April when a wildfire spread in Lake County, Florida. Wildlife officials tried, but did not find Smokey's mother.

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    On Wednesday, wildlife officials said Smokey Jr. was healthy and ready to go back to the wild.

    The brush fire covered more than 250 acres and damaged several homes, Lake County officials said.

    Smokey was taken to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, and later to Homosassa State Park for rehabilitation. He had limited interaction with humans in order "to reduce the likelihood of imprinting," Lowry Park Zoo  spokeswoman Rachel Nelson told WFTV in April.

    Because of the massive scale of the brush fire, it was amazing that Smoky Jr. survived, wildlife officers said. It took firefighters and the Florida Forest Service nearly eight hours to get the blaze contained.

    No injuries were reported in connection with the fire.

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