Profile and Mission of Appalachian Bear Rescue Organization
photos copyright of Appalachian Bear Rescue

Originally known as the Appalachian Black Bear Rehabilitation and Release Center, Inc. in 1990, the word "center" was drop due to the fact that the public thought the center was opened to the general public, it is not open to the public for the sole protection and the future welfare of the bear guests. The mission of the organization is to educate the public concerning bear safety and species preservation including how bears and humans can successfully coexist in the same habitat. They instruct on how to avoid inadvertently harming black bears and their precious cubs. The Appalachian Bear Rescue offers an awareness campaign consisting of handy informative brochures along with several printed posters available for download by ABR's partners and the public at

The founding of the not-for-profit organization was formed in part due to the severe mast failure that affected the Smoky Mountains region in the fall of 1989. The mast failure (lack of natural food sources) forced the black bear population to move primarily into the lower elevation in search of food. This was not uncommon for the bears to do throughout natural history; the problem the black bear population faces today is that human population along with growing tourism has dominated the lower elevation region causing bear/human conflict. Adults and cub bears were subject to deaths cause by vehicles, irate property owners, poachers looking for easy picking, and other unfortunate mishaps all due to food shortages that force the bears out of the woods. Out of this tragedy arose a large amount of orphaned black bear cubs. Wherever there is a conflict between either human kind, or animal kind, orphans are an unfortunate result of such conflicts.

This matter of orphaned bear cubs became the problem for the National Park Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency as they coped with the daily care of the orphaned cubs. To assist in this growing problem, a small group of regional concerned citizens joined together to form what has become the Appalachian Bear Rescue organization. The organization is considered to be a one of a kind, 501(c) (3) non-profit organization providing an urgently needed alternative for wildlife officials trying to save the lives of orphaned and injured black bear cubs. The ABR orchestrates both the release and medical care for the black bear cubs with the cooperation from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), the National Park Service and the University of Tennessee's School of Veterinary Science. The Appalachian Bear Rescue support, in-part, is provided by other non-profit organizations such as Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Alcoa Foundation and other generous grants, sponsorship and private donations.

The Appalachian Bear Rescue Primary Mission

1. To rehabilitate orphaned and injured black bears for later release into the wild, or placement in other qualified facilities.

2. To educate the public about black bears and the regional threats facing their survival.

3. To research natural bear attributes, which may help solve other environmental of health issues.

Educating the general public helps assist in the successful rescue of bears and cubs from some of the effects of people living and interacting in or near the bear's natural environment. Even though the ABR organization itself does not actually go into the field and retrieve the injured or orphaned bears, by calling the ABR's office at (865) 448-0143 they will notify the proper authorities necessary for bear recovery. Individuals should not try to rescue any black bear cubs on their own, this could frighten or cause harm to the cub. Unintentionally scaring the cub off makes a rescue by trained officials more difficult or impossible. It could also possibly expose an individual to the chance that a mother bear might be near by and respond aggressively to protect her cubs, which is her natural instinct as a mother. If you ever encounter a possible orphan bear cub call the office immediately and wait for directions. Better yet add this number to your speed dial, (865) 448-0413, they move quickly at times.

Through hard dedicated work, the Appalachian Bear Rescue continues to successfully rehabilitate and release into the wild a large and ever-growing number of young cubs when they reach maturity as yearlings, to live full lives in their intended natural environment. ABR embraces their humanitarian efforts with a most fitting personal motto; "Giving Bears a Second Chance!"

One of the noteworthy achievements by the ABR is their instrumental involvement in passing the first ever Bear-proof, Dumpster Law in the city of Gatlinburg Tennessee. As a result, the ABR was awarded the 1998 "Conservationist of the Year Award" sponsored by the Tennessee Conservation League.

Brief ABR Chronological History...

1992 to 1995: Signed 30-year free lease with Tuckaleechee Wildlife Center for a 14.8-acre site in Townsend Blount County, Tennessee. Published first issue of the newsletter, "Bear Tracks."

1996: Hired first curator and accepted it first orphaned black bear cub.

1997-1998: Assisted 19-orphaned cubs from Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas.

1998: University of Tennessee assisted ABR in tracking the released bears, data used to verify ABR's "hands off rehab policy."

1999: Due to the tremendous success of ABR's program, other states sought help in rehabilitating black bears. States requesting assistance were, Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas.

2002: ABR obtained "Bear Beware" kits for officers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and the Gatlinburg Police Department. Worked with World Society for the Protection of Animals to develop a "Bear Safe" brochure. Produced a short television video designed to educate the general public about avoiding contact with or attempting to feed black bears.

2003: Assisted 6 orphaned cubs; all were released into the wild. Joined Black Bear Jamboree to sponsor "Run for the Bears," a 5K race held annually in the fall season.

2004: Assisted 5 cubs and 4 yearlings. Received grant donations from The Bearington Collection, Inc., Friends of the Smokies, Westgate Resort Foundation and accepted donation of office trailer from MNB to replace used trailer purchased in 1996.

2005 to 2008: ABR assisted 7 yearlings and 20 cubs. Received sponsorship donations from Boyds Bears, Cherrydale Farms, and Black Bear Jamboree. Received grant donations from The Boyd Foundation, Friends of the Smokies, Alcoa Foundation and the Westgate Resort Foundation. Signed "free" lease for 50-years with the Tuckaleechee Wildlife Center, yielding a total of 25.5-acres for ABR's use. In addition, ABR enhanced and extended its educational outreach program with assistance from World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

Appalachian Bear Rescue's "Would you like to help orphaned bears cubs?" donation program is compiled into a handy brochure and located on their website for those interested in assisting this wonderful and dedicated organization. Generous contributions from sponsorships, grants and private donations only begin to cover the growing and immediate needs for these precious little cubs. So much more is needed for the cubs' welfare and development as they are prepared for the release into their natural habitat.

Quoting from their informative brochure: "The Black Bear is an icon in the Southern Appalachians...however, habitat loss, improper garbage disposal and poaching are all obstacles bears must overcome to keep their foothold in the beautiful place. The Appalachian Bear Rescue, along with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the National Park Service, are working together to ensure the black bear's survival for generation to come. Each year, black bears from our national parks and surrounding areas are orphaned, injured or in need of medical attention. "

A tax-deductible contribution will help keep the ABR in operation. Private donations are their primary source of funding; your help is dearly needed. Any minimum donations of $50-dollars or more will receive a 1-year subscription to ABR's quarterly newsletter, "Bear Tracks." Visit for more information as to how your can help.

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