Organization in Townsend helps bears from throughout U.S.

An organization in Townsend is working to help orphans and the injured. Their clients aren’t human, they’re bears.

The Appalachian Bear Rescue is based in Townsend and helps rehabilitate bears from throughout the Southeastern United States.

Jack Burgin, chairman of the board of Appalachian Bear Rescue, said the organization took in their first bear in 1996. “We’re in our 13th year. We have helped rehabilitate more than 90 bears at this point and helped return them to the wild,” he said. “We take in orphan and injured cubs that have no other place to go and feed them and get them ready to be released whenever they’re old enough or big enough.”

Burgin said Appalachian Bear Rescue is the only facility in Tennessee and the largest facility on the East Coast of the United States. “Without us the cubs would really have no other place to go effectively,” he said.

Burgin said there has been years where the organization had very few bears brought to them. “The past six or seven years we’ve had bears every season, sometimes over 12 in a season and sometimes three or four. We already have four bears right now, they’re cubs,” he said earlier this spring. “That’s pretty early for us and we’re expecting more. I don’t think there’s anything bad, but I just think it happened to work out there were bears in need a little early.”

Burgin said they draw bears from across the Southeast. “Some states we can’t work with, they have different philosophies and some state do not believe bears can be rehabilitated. Tennessee strongly supports rehabilitation,” he said.

Burgin said the public isn’t allowed on the property of the facility in Townsend in order to protect the bears. “We want people to enjoy seeing a bear in the wild. It is, people tend to be pretty understanding that we can not take visitors,” he said. “There are a handful of people who get upset, some show up and demand to see a bear but by and large most people respect the bears.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the organization can go to the website at

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