HomeOutdoorsNewsAppalachian Bear Rescue Releases Black Bear Into the Wild After 8 Months in Captivity

Appalachian Bear Rescue Releases Black Bear Into the Wild After 8 Months in Captivity

by Caitlin Berard
American Black Bear
(Photo by Brittany Crossman via Getty Images)

After spending eight months at Appalachian Bear Rescue, a black bear care facility in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Taco Bear, a now adult male, was released back into the wild.

On May 4, 2022, Tennessee residents contacted ABR, concerned about a tiny orphaned bear crying alone in their neighborhood. It took hours to coax the little bear into a trap, but the orphaned cub finally arrived at the doorstep of the Appalachian Bear Rescue on May 5. Weighing only 3 pounds, ABR officials affectionately named the cub Taco, vowing to care for him until he was old enough to care for himself in the wild.

For the next eight months, rescuers watched Taco grow and mature, the little cub making friends with the other young black bears in their care: Thyme, Truffle, and Thistle. After offering Taco many different food options, they learned his favorite food was yogurt, a treat he then received often.

The months passed and Taco grew quickly, playing and exploring his enclosure with the T triplets. And finally, January 2023 arrived, and it was time for the cubs to graduate from the care facility and return to the wild.

At a healthy 113 pounds, Taco the black bear ventured back out into the Tennessee wilderness for the first time since losing his mother. In a year or two, he could have a family of his own!

Appalachian Bear Rescue Releases 14 Healthy Black Bears Into the Smokies

In total, the Appalachian Bear Rescue took in 21 black bears in the 2022 rescue season, with Taco being their longest-standing resident of the year. Last week, ABR released 14 of them to live free in the wild once again. Four remain in the Tennessee facility, their own release dates rapidly approaching.

Sadly, not every bear who arrives at the ABR makes it to graduation day. Though the majority are raised to be healthy adults inside the facility, some suffer car accidents and other incidents causing such severe injuries that euthanasia is the only choice.

Many who arrive with injuries, however, receive successful treatment from the ABR’s dedicated team. Heather, for example, a yearling found on August 3, had more than 30 wounds covering her body. After receiving treatment from the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, she arrived at the black bear facility. There, she recovered for five months before returning to the wild on January 9.

Taco’s graduation day fell on January 12, when ABR released him alongside eight other bears. Those released with Taco include his friends, Truffle, Thyme, and Thistle, as well as Myrtle, a latecomer to the cub enclosure, and another set of triplets – Rosemary, Sage, and Sorrel.

Last but not least was Little Trouble, a female cub spotted with her head stuck in a plastic jug. Trouble spent at least eight days of 90-degree weather trapped in the jug before ABR officials finally caught her. She received her unique name because it took hundreds of hours and multiple agencies to wrangle her.