Why we help: Throwing a lifeline to orphaned and injured wildlife

Savannah Trantham

Growing up on a farm in Candler, animals have always been central to my life here in the mountains. I mentored in wildlife rehabilitation at an early age, thanks to Janice Burleson, a licensed rehabilitator who specializes in squirrels with neurological disorders. While working for 16 years at the WNC Nature Center, the pressing need in our community for a centralized wildlife rehabilitation facility became clear to me. Teaming up with co-founder Kimberly Brewster, Appalachian Wildlife Refuge was officially registered as a nonprofit back in 2014.

Seven years later, AWR has grown into a full-scale rehabilitation facility that rescues, rehabilitates and releases orphaned and injured wildlife, provides conservation education and runs an Emergency Wildlife Hotline. We have helped over 4,000 animals get back out into the wild since opening the doors to our animal care facility in 2018. I’m excited and hopeful as Appalachian Wildlife Refuge continues to grow, develop and better serve the needs of our community.

Wildlife rehabilitation is a tireless endeavor that takes passion, long days, late nights, overnight feedings of wild orphans, bites, scratches, heartbreak alongside the triumphs, and a whole army of volunteers and supporters to make it possible. As a nonprofit that depends solely on donations to operate, finding funding is always a struggle and a challenge made even more difficult with the pandemic.

Seeing orphaned and injured animals recover and go free again makes all the challenges worthwhile. The animals and the people trying to help them being thrown a lifeline, the success stories and the wild lives saved — these are the things that keep us motivated and always moving forward.

Thank you so much to everyone in the community who has supported Appalachian Wildlife Refuge and please reach out to our hotline (828-633-6364, ext. 1) if you find an animal that needs help!

— Savannah Trantham
Executive director
Appalachian Wildlife Refuge


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