Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Bearing a Hand

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Bearing a Hand

Article excerpt

Coy Blair loves bears.

As the curator at Appalachian Bear Rescue, a nonprofit that cares for orphaned and injured American black bears until they can be returned to the wild, Blair (The University of Tennessee, Knoxville) oversees direct bear care. That means coordinating with wildlife officials on receiving and releasing bears, providing treatment plans and scheduling veterinary care, designing feeding plans and habitats, and ensuring the team does all that with limited human contact.

"I have always had a passion for wildlife," Blair said. "I grew up spending most of my time outdoors, and I have always been fascinated with all animals and how they live in their environments. As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was always fun, but even better if we had the opportunity to see a black bear."

He sees a lot of them now, and also helps ensure they'll be around for future generations to enjoy. But during the devastating 2016 wildfires in Tennessee, Blair and ABR were fighting for their lives.

"We have had wildfires before, but nothing like the ones that blazed through during last November. It was a sudden and catastrophic fire that was fueled by winds in excess of eighty miles per hour, making fighting it a true nightmare," Blair said. He didn't have to evacuate his home, but ABR board members and friends did. Fourteen people died.

But what about the bears?

Blair and his research partner Jessica Giacomini started a research project, using the three-day period before, during, and after the fire, and bears they'd already collared for other research. …

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