Four months after he was found lying by a stream near Bristol, Appalachian Bear Rescue has released a now-healthy Summitt Bear back into the wild in Sullivan County.
ABR started caring for Summitt in March. The bear was underweight and "severely anemic and dehydrated" when he arrived at the Townsend-based bear rescue.
Staff at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine performed the school's first-ever black bear blood transfusion on Summitt, using blood from one of Zoo Knoxville's black bears named Finn. It was only the second black bear blood transfusion to be performed in the United States, according to ABR.
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ABR staff determined Summitt was healthy enough to live on his own again, and along with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials, released him back into the wild in Sullivan County on Sunday.
Summitt was named for legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt.
In a statement Monday, ABR said they have been asked many times over the years to name a bear after the coach, who died in 2016. As people around the world followed Summitt Bear's recovery, they also learned about Pat Summitt and the work the Pat Summitt Foundation is doing to find a cure for Alzeheimer's disease, ABR said.
"We hope that this little bear will draw additional awareness to the Foundation’s mission of doing research to treat, prevent, cure and ultimately eradicate Alzheimer’s disease," ABR said.