Partner Spotlight: Appalachian Bear Rescue

Mazuri Exotic Animal Nutrition is proud to partner with various rescues, organizations and sanctuaries around the world. These organizations dedicate their efforts and resources to the safety, preservation and health of exotic and endangered animals.

Since 1996, when the first bear arrived at the Appalachian Bear Rescue, the rehabilitation center has focused on the timely release of young black bears back into the wild. The bear rescue, located in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, specializes in handling black bear cubs and yearlings that are orphaned or injured.

Unlike many other bear rescues around the globe, the Appalachian Bear Rescue does not wait for bears to reach a certain age to release them back into the wild. Instead, when a bear reaches a healthy weight and can care for itself, the bear is released. Additionally, no bears older than 24 months of age are ever at the facility.

In the past 23 years, nearly 300 juvenile black bears from Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky and South Carolina have arrived at the center. Most of those bears have been successfully released into the wild.

A University of Tennessee study led by Appalachian Bear Rescue lead curator Coy Blair found a 93% success rate in cubs and yearlings released.

Habitats & Care

With the aid of donations, significant investments have been made in facilities to care for black bears while limiting human interaction.

When bears arrive with injuries, illnesses or are too young to care for themselves adequately, they stay in temperature-controlled facilities. A recovery center features a ceiling that raises and lowers, so if a bear needs to lay down to rest an injury, the roof can be pushed down. A nursey allows for care of orphaned cubs requiring bottle feeding, but the Appalachian Bear Rescue aims to wean cubs quickly from bottles and have them lapping milk by 10 to 12 weeks old to minimize human contact.

Once bears start recovering, they make their way into one of four wild enclosures. The enclosures are completely outside in a forested area divided into half-acre pens. Aiding in the enrichment of the cubs and yearlings are several human-made structures within the enclosures. Elevated walkways made from lumber between trees, climbing structures constructed of fire hoses, swimming pools and tether balls are just a few of the enrichments the young black bears enjoy.


Because the rescue limits human contact to maintain a more natural environment for the bears, it does not offer public tours. However, it hasn’t stopped the rehabilitation center from letting people know about the progress bears are making in their care.

The Appalachian Bear Rescue shares updates with its 200,000 followers via Facebook. Photos and videos shared on the page are taken directly from cameras monitoring the bear habitats.

The Appalachian Bear Rescue does have a visitor and education center located off-site from the rehabilitation facility. At the visitor and education center, people can see videos of the bears going all the way back to 1999 and can buy souvenirs to help fund the rehabilitation facility. Curators from the Appalachian Bear Rescue host seminars at the visitor and education center to share updates on bears and help answer questions.


At the Appalachian Bear Rescue, young black bear diets consist of nuts and fruit, with acorns being one of the major native nuts they eat. Additionally, all bears receive Mazuri® Wild Carnivore™ Bear Maintenance Diet to help fortify the ration and ensure enough nutrients are obtained. This diet can be fed year-round and is an excellent source of protein featuring multiple meat sources.

Blair credits the Mazuri® Wild Carnivore™ Bear Maintenance Diet for helping rehabilitate a severely malnourished yearling black bear cub. On Feb. 14, 2019, the Appalachian Bear Rescue took in ABR Bear 282, known to the public as Hartley. When Hartley arrived from Kentucky, he weighed under 12 pounds (the normal weight of a 13-month-old bear is 50 pounds) and he was missing 70% of his hair coat.

Examinations by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine revealed the emaciated bear was severely malnourished. Upon taking Hartley into the rescue, he was placed on a diet to gain weight and promote hair growth with most of the nutrition coming from Mazuri® Wild Carnivore™ Bear Maintenance Diet. After two months, Hartley had nearly a full summer coat, and he was successfully released back in the wild forests of Kentucky on June 2, 2019, weighing 73.6 lbs.

The Appalachian Bear Rescue is a non-profit organization. For more information about the Appalachian Bear Rescue and how you can get involved, visit www.appalachianbearrescue.org or follow them on Facebook.

Mazuri collaborates with industry organizations to continue driving exotic animal nutrition knowledge forward. Working with the Appalachian Bear Rescue helps Mazuri continue to improve bear diets by learning more about palatability, special dietary needs, and how enrichment impacts animal health.

Visit the article section to learn about Mazuri’s industry partnerships.