Appalachian Bear Rescue has one more valuable tool in its toolkit and extra cash in its pockets to help care for injured and orphaned black bear cubs, as the winner of a Defender Service Award from Land Rover.
The nonprofit in Townsend got the good news recently at a ceremony in Saugerties, New York. Being the top vote getter in the Animal Welfare category won ABR a Land Rover Defender 130 and $25,000 in cash. Executive Director Dana Dodd made the trip to receive the recognition.
In all, there were 220,000 votes cast for agencies in five categories for the 25 finalists. The other categories were environmental and conservation, search and rescue, veterans outreach and community service. KONG is the company that partnered with Land Rover to provide the $25,000 prize in the animal welfare category.
Now back in Tennessee, Dodd expressed her appreciation to all ABR supporters who cast their votes during the voting period Oct. 21-Nov. 6. She admitted ABR’s participation almost didn’t happen because of some overlooked emails.
"You can win a Land Rover," the email said. Dodd was pouring over ABR emails and saw this one. She ignored it. A few more came when she finally decided to delve into the details.
"When I opened it up, I realized I had really messed us up because it was something we absolutely needed to do," Dodd said. "We had one week to put together a 3-minute video to enter the contest, showing Land Rover and the other sponsors what this could do for our nonprofit."
Curator Coy Blair and others at ABR moved quickly to get a video shot and submitted. Then weeks later, ABR was informed it was one of the finalists chosen by a panel of judges. Then it was up to voters.
ABR has a strong Facebook presence, so posts about the contest were launched, daily, encouraging people to vote. The organization used photos of bears cared for past and present to make their case.
The nonprofit takes in cubs that have been orphaned in the wild or are sick. They stay in the Townsend enclosures until strong enough to go back into the wild. They get as little human contact as possible so the wild animals have the best chance at life in their native habitat.
Dodd said there were 800 agencies that entered the Land Rover competition initially. That was then whittled down to 25. ABR came out on top, one of five top winners. Each of the five got a Land Rover and $25,000.
"We probably wore people out," Dodd said of the social media posts. "We know they were a little annoying but nobody complained."
The Land Rover ABR won seats eight and can be used to transport bears back and forth for medical treatment at University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine or to reach bears in peril in tough locations. Dodd said the vehicle will have a custom wrap on it so the nonprofit will have a more visible presence in the community. Hauling equipment to various events is one more duty it will perform.
ABR will take possession of the vehicle in February.
The $25,000 prize will be used for day-to-day costs of caring for the temporary houseguests. The bears eat a lot, tend to destroy vegetation, need medications and constant eyes on them. That takes money, Dodd said.
"It is resource intensive, what we do," this executive director said.
As for who is most excited about this win, Dodd said it might be a toss-up between the bears and ABR supporters. "It’s probably our supporters," she said. "They really got into it and voted and voted and voted."
Currently, there are 15 bears being cared for at ABR. One of them, Heather, is a yearling while the rest are cubs. They are named Highland, Piper, Nessie, Angus, Taco, Truffle, Thyme, Thistle, Myrtle, Little Trouble, Rosemary, Sorrel, Sage and Nettles. The last one to arrive was Nettles. She is housed in Hartley House at ABR and will be released into a wild enclosure when curators deem she is ready.
Many of the bears end up here because of human-animal conflicts. Seven of them are at ABR because of issues related to getting into trash. Four were either struck by cars or their mothers were.
Most will be released back into the wild by the end of the year, close to where they were found. ABR continues to update its facilities and provide round-the-clock care. Dodd said the generous support of people all over the world makes this possible.
"We couldn’t do what we do without them," she said. "We could never win something this great without them."