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PETA Calls Foul After Bear Pit Fan Named to Wildlife Commission

Written by Michelle Kretzer | September 5, 2013

Chief Michell Hicks has demonstrated total disregard for the laws that the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is charged with administering. So why was he appointed to it? That’s the question that PETA is demanding that North Carolina’s governor, speaker of the House, and president pro-tem of the Senate answer.

Hicks is the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), and he has defended the Cherokee Bear Zoo, a decrepit roadside zoo on EBCI land that keeps bears in inhumane conditions that are completely contrary to the commission’s standards of animal care—and even the protections of the tribal laws regarding bears. The zoo confines two black bears to an approximately 560-square-foot concrete pit, and four black bears to a 1,080-square-foot pit. The pits are devoid of any vegetation or anything else to enrich the animals’ environment.

It’s a far cry from the wildlife commission standards, which require that “[b]lack bears held in captivity … shall be held without caging under conditions simulating a natural habitat.” The standards also require at least 1 acre of space for one or two bears and additional space for more bears and that at least half of the space be “wooded with living trees, shrubs and other perennial vegetation.” Cherokee Bear Zoo’s pits are a mere 1.3 percent and 2 percent of these space requirements.

The bears pace back and forth, a sign of chronic psychological torment. Two other bear zoos on EBCI land have been criticized for chronic abuse, and one of them was shut down following a PETA investigation.

PETA wants North Carolina officials to nullify Hicks’ appointment. Animals need friends in high places—abusers do not.

What You Can Do

Please join us in expressing your opinion about this appointment by e-mailing Gov. Pat McCrory.

And e-mail Cherokee Bear Zoo owners and ask that they let the bears retire to a reputable sanctuary.

Commenting is closed.
  • Paula Frances Ardito says:

    Can’t you read and comprend this? b]lack bears held in captivity … shall be held without caging under conditions simulating a natural habitat.

    I am very disappointed. The Great Spirit does not want the bears to live this way at all. They are intelligent bears. They NEED natural environment. Don’t keep the bears only because you are making so money from the tourists – do this for the bear’s well being. Treat these bears like you would treat your human children. Would you put your son or daughter in a concrete bedroom without books, windows, bed, toys and computers? No, you wouldn’t.  These bears are equally important as the humans. We ARE NOT more important than them or any other wild creatures. I pray to the Great Spirit to change your heart. Please give up those bears to a better reputed sanctuary. I am SHOCKED to learn this. This puts me crying in my bed because they all are ALIVE and NOT LIVING. I ask the Great Spirit to help.


  • JUDY GAUGER says:


  • Donna says:

    This is just Plain Inhumane & Barbaric…WHY is this ALLOWED? Don’t officials have a conscience????

  • Kim Norman says:

    How could North Carolina appoint an animal abuser Michell Hicks to its Wildlife Resource Commission… This appt. speaks volumes about the mentality of the people in charge of this Wildlife dept…… Remove this man IMMEDIATELY before this Dept. looses all credibility…. NORTH CAROLINA OFFICIALS SHOULD HANG THEIR HEADS IN SHAME FOR HICKS’ APPOINTMENT……

  • San Francisco Animal Liberationist says:

    This is disgusting. Bears don’t belong in captivity!