Editorial: Rescue squad

Townsend bear facility getting much deserved and needed upgrades
Mar. 15, 2013 @ 12:14 AM

This area — heck, this state — is fortunate to have Appalachian Bear Rescue in operation. It is the state’s only licensed center to rehabilitate black bears. This newspaper sent an orphan cub found behind our building to the facility two years ago. Being so close to the Smokies and other national forests, most of which sustain a thriving bear population, we need to have a facility that can take in orphan bear cubs when there are no options available.

It’s good to see the bear rescue facility being upgraded. Crews have been working on the facility over the last several months. Coy Blair told The Daily Times newspaper in Maryville that the improvements will allow the 25-acre facility in in Townsend to better serve bears in need when they come out of hibernation.

Blair said there is now a nursery for any cubs that are brought to the center, and there is a bigger storage area for food, which allows the facility to buy in bulk. It now has separate storage areas for cub formula and for refrigerated and dry food for older bears. Blair said workers can now dry and store acorns collected and donated from area school children in a specialized building.

In addition, a zipline has been installed to help workers feed the animals, and an observation tower will be added in a recently completed second enclosure where bears are allowed to roam. “The bears won’t be able to see us or hear us and they might not be able to pick up our scents, either,” Blair said. He said it is important that the bears have little contact with humans and don’t get used to being fed. When workers place acorns in the bear enclosures, he said they are scattered so that bears have to forage for them. “We need to make their experience here as close to the wild as it can be,” he said.

The facility has helped and released 186 black bears that were injured, sick or orphaned since opening in 1996. It gets no public money, so donations and gifts sustain it. This community has been supportive of Appalachian Bear Rescue, and will continue to do so. It’s critically important that it remain strong.