CUMBERLAND, MD. -- A black bear named Dawn, which underwent surgery at the National Zoo this fall after being struck by a car, has been returned to the wild and is romping through the woods of Garrett County.

"It took off very fast and was leaping at eight or 10 feet to the bound," said Thomas P. Mathews, a regional biologist in Cumberland with the Maryland Forest, Park and Wildlife Service. "I was very encouraged by the way it ran away."

Doctors at the zoo implanted a steel plate into Dawn's left hind leg to repair a broken femur bone. After a nine-week ordeal, Dawn was released late last week in Western Maryland.

Dr. Lyndsay Phillips, associate veterinarian at the zoo, said the bear's prognosis is excellent. Dawn's recovery was hampered when she put too much weight on the leg one day and pulled loose some of the screws that fuse the lower half of the surgical-steel plate to her bone. However, since then, the plate and bone have fit together well.

"We've got a good union. It looks like it's going to hold," Phillips said, adding that Dawn was walking straight without a limp.

Mathews said that without treatment at the zoo, Dawn would have died a slow, agonizing death in the wild.