TOWNSEND — The curator of Tennessee’s only licensed center to rehabilitate black bears says crews have been updating the facility over the last several months.
Coy Blair told The Daily Times (http://bit.ly/WNrrJJ) that the improvements will allow the 25-acre Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend to better serve bears in need when they come out of hibernation in the spring.
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.
“It’s been a very successful program. Students at Mary Blount Elementary collected 660 pounds of acorns for our bears,” he said.
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.
In addition to the physical changes, the facility has begun an initiative to educate people about bear safety.
“Black bears are an East Tennessee icon,” said Heather Ripley, who is with Appalachian Bear Rescue. “They appear cute and cuddly, but they are wild animals constantly in search of food — whether it is found in nature or in trash from campsites.”
Last year, the facility helped 33 bears before releasing back into the wild. Blair says there’s no way to predict how many bears might need aid this year, but Appalachian Bear Rescue is ready to help.
Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.thedailytimes.com