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Fighting for Northwest wild animals one life at a time - 2021's Best

Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) saved Eastern Washington bear cubs burned in last summer's wildfires. #k5evening

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is the winner of Best Animal Rescue/Shelter in 2021's Best of Western Washington viewers poll.

As we humans lay waste to our planet, wildlife pays an awful price.

"We're finding a lot more need for our services at PAWS due to the extreme weather events," said Heidi Wills Yamada, the CEO of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

Last summer's massive climate-driven fires near Chelan and Wenatchee forced bear cubs to flee their burning habitat. Four injured cubs were taken to PAWS. One did not survive. The other three faced a long road to recovery.

Jennifer Convy, a wildlife rehabilitator and PAWS director said, "The first bear had burns all over her face."

A few weeks later, two males joined her at the PAWS Wildlife Center.

Wills Yamada said, "There was a bear that came to PAWS through the wildfires that was crawling on its elbows because it couldn't use the pads of its paws, they were so severely burned."

PAWS veterinarians went to work carefully tending to the burns.

Convy said, "Our staff worked really hard on these bears."

Surrounded by caring humans, the three young bears have been gradually regaining their health.

"It's really heartening to see their progress," Wills Yamada said.

When two of the bears were introduced to each other, it was obvious they'd met before.

"Really sniffing each other and just hanging out," Convy recalled.

Turned out, they were brothers.

"Playing, wrestling, getting to know each other again," Convy said.

Day by day, the bears are looking and acting more like their relatives in the wild.

Convy said, "They're all together as just one big pile of bears."

If all goes according to plan, next spring they'll return to nature.

Wills Yamada said, "It's really rewarding and fulfilling work to be able to help these animals and see them re-released back into wild, which is their home and where they belong."

PAWS relies on contributions of time and money from volunteers and supporters in the community. If you'd like to contribute to their efforts, visit their website.

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