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Appalachian Wild saves, rehabs, educates

by Ryan Jo Summers

Hidden away in the woods around Asheville is a winding drive that will take one to an unassuming house. Inside that house, however, hums a group as efficient and organized as a beehive.

Appalachian Wild comprises a small, paid staff and devoted volunteers who share a three-fold mission. 1: Help injured and orphaned wildlife, 2: Support Western North Carolina’s wildlife rehabilitation network, and 3: Provide wildlife conservation education. Appalachian Wild is the only facility in Buncombe County that takes in a variety of species. This includes herptiles (turtles, snakes, toads, etc.), birds (songbirds, waterfowl, raptors, etc.…) and small mammals.

Because of the wide variety of wildlife they help, and because of the diversity of professionals on their board and advisory council, such as a N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission wildlife biologist and specialized veterinarian, Appalachian Wild is considered unique. Since 2018, they have helped over 3,015 wild animals. They are a very collegial group of volunteers that makes this a special place to volunteer.

A vast majority of the animals Appalachian Wild sees are the result of such human activity as car strikes, lot clearing that can leave orphans, chemical poisoning, wildlife stuck to sticky insect and rodent traps, yard maintenance equipment strikes and more. Non-releasable animals, the ones who cannot be rehabilitated and released, are either euthanized to humanely end their suffering or become educational animals—ambassadors to bridge the public and wildlife species.

There are federal and state licenses required to work with native wildlife. The regulating agency for the state licenses is the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Appalachian Wild possesses all the necessary licenses to provide care for native wildlife. But all the requirements and training to maintain appropriate licensing costs money. Nevertheless, since 2018, Appalachian Wild has been remarkably successful.

They have multiple happy ending stories. One such happy ending was a groundhog that was found with a broken off glass jar around its neck. The groundhog apparently stuck its head into a glass jar, looking for a meal, got stuck, managed to break the jar but was left with a glass collar growing into its neck. Thanks to a nurse at Mission Hospital who worked to trap it, and Dr. Sarah Hargrove from Cedar Ridge Animal Hospital, the groundhog was helped and released. Happy ending!

They have also been gifted with some super volunteers. 150 active volunteers help with every imaginable task, from manning the emergency phone line, to preparing meals, to transportation, cleaning, and so much more. So far, in 2020 those dedicated volunteers have collectively volunteered 15,860 hours! (*total as of 10/14/2020) These standout people all strive to make the wheels at Appalachian Wild run smoothly. They all give of their time, their talents, and out of their heart, to give wildlife in need a chance.

One big question many people have is how Appalachian Wild and the WNC Nature Center in Asheville differ or are the same. The Nature Center is owned and managed by the City of Asheville Parks & Recreation Department, and they are not set up to do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. Originally established as a zoo, they focus on conservation programs and projects.

In that vein, it should be noted that it is illegal for someone unlicensed to keep a wild animal for more than 24 hours. Special knowledge and skills are needed to understand anatomy of each species, their nutritional needs, how to transition them from patient to preparing for release, how to include enrichment, stimulation and exercise for them and most importantly, never make them a pet. Wildlife needs to remain wild if possible and not lose that instinctive fear of humans.

Like most groups, Appalachian Wild felt the effects of COVID-19. The volunteer base has changed over the summer months. Volunteers come from all walks of life. Some work outside their volunteering, some are retired, some are college students seeking experience working with wildlife. Others still just want to give back to their community. Any reason to volunteer is a good reason!

The group’s website has a Wishlist, that is updated weekly. The needs are tied to the seasons, and the majority of animals they help for any given season. That website is

Sometimes groups, businesses, and individuals host supply drives. Mountain Credit Union and Animal Hospital of North Asheville have been great about this. It can be as easy as setting out a box for people to drop donations in and providing a current list of Wishlist items.

People who wish to get involved can contact volunteer coordinator, Lisa O’Brien. Send an email to or visit the website at and click on the “Support” tab and complete the online volunteer application. Lisa will get in touch as quickly as possible. While you are there, check out the other ways to help Appalachian Wild, like donate, buy merchandise, sign up for an E-newsletter. Most importantly, like and follow them on social media. Likes and follows on non-profit social pages can attract the attention of organizations with funds to donate.

Facebook: @AppWild -





TikTok @AppalachianWild

Wishlist link:

inf<>;9507828-885-DOGS (3647)

Ryan Jo Summers is a local author and an animal advocate. She has worked in the professional pet care industry for more than thirty years in both business and non-profit sectors. Her home is a haven to a menagerie of rescued animals of various species. To find out more about Ryan’s writing and her pets. visit her website at or her Facebook pages and

“Getting to Know your Local Rescues” is an on-going series highlighting WNC animal rescue groups. Any organization interested in being featured is invited to contact Ryan Jo at and use the ‘Contact’ tab.


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