A black bear named Cinder nearly lost her life after suffering severe burns following a wildfire that ravaged parts of Washington state in 2014. Now, the animal — whose rehabilitation story made national headlines and inspired a children's e-book — was reportedly found shot by a hunter who cut off the animal’s tracking collar and left her remains behind.
The bear’s radio-transmitting collar had stopped sending signals in October 2017, leading wildlife officials to first assume Cinder had gone into hibernation for the winter, KOMO-News reported.
Rich Beausoleil, a bear specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told Fox News on Tuesday that he and his associate in December 2017 hiked to the area near Cinder's den and placed cameras around "in hopes to get pictures of her" and possibly cubs.
"[But] due to heavy snow loads in the spring and the cougar creek fire [and] smoke in the summer we were not able to go back and retrieve the cameras until September 2018," Beausoleil explained.
It was then that Beausoleil and his associate went searching for the bear’s den, thinking the animal's collar had simply stopped working.
Instead, they came across the Cinder's skeletal remains. A hunter had shot her and cut off her tracking collar, which is why it was inoperative, Beausoleil said.
While it's legal to kill a bear with a radio collar in Washington state, the state does have "mandatory online reporting."
"The hunter only has to tell us the sex and the GMU [game management unit] it was killed in. All my contact info is on the collar but the hunter chose not to call. I don’t know why," he said.
Cinder was last seen alive and healthy by researchers in February 2017 when they checked on her in her den high in the Cascade mountains.
The black bear was rescued and rehabilitated after a wildfire in north-central Washington state's Methow Valley scorched 400 square miles and destroyed 300 homes. The bear suffered third-degree burns on all four of her paws as a result, and was reportedly so burned she was “walking on her elbows,” The Associated Press reported.
Cinder was first taken to the California-based Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, which treated her burns. She was later sent to Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation to recover before being released in June 2015 at the age of two.
Her story made national headlines and even led to the creation of an interactive e-book called "Cinder the Bear,” which was released on the Apple Book Store. The proceeds benefited the centers where she was treated.
"Cinder did a lot for the residents of the Methow that were affected by wildfire — she inspired them to rebuild and move on from the devastating Carlton Complex fire. I’ll always remember someone saying, 'If Cinder can do it then we can do it,'" Beausoleil recalled. "That inspired me, too."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.