Free-ranging American black bears (Ursus americanus) often share habitat with humans and domestic animals, predisposing them to anthropogenic conflicts. Rehabilitation under professional care is a management option for orphaned, injured, and/or ill bears. Across several southeastern states, rescued bears are assessed and treated at the University of Tennessee and rehabilitated at Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR). Records from 1996–2021 showed 337 bears (170 males, 166 females, 1 unknown) from nine states were admitted to ABR. Three bears were admitted twice, resulting in 340 admissions (42 neonates <3 mo old, 206 cubs 3–12 mo, 87 yearlings 1–2 yr, and 5 adults >2 yr). Bears presented as orphans (58%), malnourished (24%), injured or ill (12%), or confiscated/other (6%). Individuals were returned to the wild (85%); died or were euthanized (12%); or were placed into professional care (3%). Of released bears, 195 had complete medical records available for evaluation; 31% were healthy upon intake while the remaining were treated successfully for malnutrition and internal parasites (49%), orthopedic (9%) and soft tissue injuries (5%), or other diseases (5%). Causes of death determined during necropsies performed (n=30) were classified as trauma (50%), developmental (13%), undetermined (13%), malnutrition (13%), infectious or inflammatory (7%), and toxicosis (3%). Despite the lack of maternal care and high prevalence of malnutrition and trauma, most bears recovered to release with appropriate husbandry and medical care. This study provides a foundation for research to further improve care of rehabilitating black bears.

This content is only available as a PDF.