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Cuddly bear cub rescued from wildfire dubbed 'Smokey Junior' by firefighters

By Ben Hooper

CLERMONT, Fla., April 8 (UPI) -- Florida firefighters in the "mop up" phase of battling a brush blaze rescued a tiny bear cub and dubbed him Smokey Junior.

The Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion said Chief Randy Jones spotted the cub during the "mop up" phase of the estimated 250-acre wildfire Thursday in a residential area near the Ocala National Forest, the home of the largest population of Florida Black Bears.

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"We treated him like one of our own," Battalion Chief Tony Cuellar told CNN. "Actually, we gave him a name while we waited for fish and game to arrive."

The name was Smokey Junior, or "SJ for short," Cuellar said.

The battalion shared photos of firefighters holding the 15-to-20-pound cub, which suffered minor burns to his face and paws, on Facebook and Twitter.

A baby bear suffered slight burns to its paws and face during this afternoon's 250+ acre wildfire in the Royal Trails...

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Posted by Lake County Fire Rescue - Official on Thursday, April 7, 2016

"No sign of mama bear," the department tweeted.

Smokey Junior -- named for famed anti-wildfire mascot Smokey Bear -- was turned over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which said it has identified an adult female bear that might be SJ's mother.

FWC officials said they would attempt to reunite the cub with his possible mother.

Fire officials reported the fire was 100 percent contained and there were no report of human injuries.

UPDATE! Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it may have found the mother of this bear cub that was rescued from a 285-acre brush fire in Lake County. Here's more about the cub named 'Smokey Junior': http://at.wftv.com/1qwNc5K

Posted by WFTV Channel 9 on Thursday, April 7, 2016

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