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Chief Saunooke Bears: Life After Rescue

Written by Ingrid Newkirk | July 3, 2014

It’s been just over a year since 11 bears felt grass under their paws for the first time after being plucked from the virtually barren concrete pits at Chief Saunooke Bear Park, a roadside zoo in Cherokee, North Carolina. It was a happy day for the bears when they found themselves picked up by a huge transport truck/plane and deposited in the lush woods of the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, Texas.

Chief Saunooke Bears One Year After Rescue

PETA worked for years to free these bears from that roadside hellhole, where they were so stressed by their constant confinement that they turned around and around in tight circles, paced endlessly, and broke their teeth gnawing on the metal cage bars. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suspended Chief Saunooke’s license shortly after PETA released our 2012 undercover investigation of the facility.

Now, our rescued friends bask on soft grass in the warm Texas sun, cool off in their pond, and forage in a vast, natural habitat. The bears show virtually no signs of the deprivation they endured for years at Chief Saunooke, and they enjoy their freedom to be bears—several of them even dug their own dens this winter! Best of all, the bear pits at Chief Saunooke are closed forever.

Chief Saunooke Bears One Year After Rescue

Chief Saunooke Bears One Year After Rescue

What You Can Do

While these bears will live out their lives in comfort and safety, hundreds of bears across the United States continue to suffer in roadside zoos. Please urge the USDA to implement regulations that address the complex needs of captive bears without further delay, and get everyone you know to do the same.

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  • Nanci Perez says:

    I am happy to learn of this wonderful release. Having grown up in Appalachia this mountain destination was a favorite. Except for that place of concrete, and degradation, and horror. The bears were unreachable and as they looked up, really they did, begging for help I was distraught that I had no means to help . I have chills as I write this comment. I am someone who cares and with PETA now I know that I can make a difference. Although thank you is appropriate to say it is not enough. I have donated and will continue to do so. Well Done.

  • Pollyana Harmon says:

    I am grateful for all the animals in the world to have PETA working so hard on their behalf PETA is animals voices, protection and justice, rescue and humane treatment with kindness and love. I am a long time supporter of PETA, it gives great comfort to hear your success stories with happy endings.

  • Angelina Miranda says:

    Glad to hear this great news…glad to hear they are now free ….Glad to be a supporter….

  • Linda Reynolds says:

    Thank you Peta. It is hard to stomach so much cruelty and ignorance but your work brings many happy endings. The key is education. Even my own grandchildren have misguided ideas about what is acceptable behaviour and thinking when it comes to the animals on this planet. I intend to change that very soon!

  • Delyse says:

    Thankyou Peta, what would these forsaken beings do without you.
    I would like to encourage all people on this earth to assist Peta by committing a monthly sum -even a small amount- to assist in their good works. This is the least that we should do.

  • Melanie Benoit says:

    Thank goodness people are reaching out to
    help animals in this way and that we can save them. They deserve their basic freedoms.

  • Natanya Moore says:

    So happy to see them enjoying the outdoors, in a safe and healthy environment! Truly is very heart warming! Every animal deserves a peaceful life.

  • Denise says:

    Praise God for you Peta and for all of the people whom dare to care for the voiceless!!!! It brings tears to my eyes and to my heart, happy tears! THANK YOU!!!!

  • connie peabody says:

    Bravo PETA! Keep up the good work…our four legged friends need our help.

  • Mika Ashley-Hollinger says:

    Please take the time to read The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate…it’s written from the voice of a captive road side gorilla named Ivan. These animals are not pets, they are prisoners.

  • Vasilios Tsoukis says:

    Wonderful news from PETA. Warming the heart!

  • Inkin says:

    Something needs to be done immediately as to the ineffectiveness of the USDA!! They do nothing, or are unable to act. To protect wild animals in captivity, puppy mills, factory farming, circuses…. What good are they?. Please
    PETA, can you contact the president, the congress, anyone in authority, to help all these poor creatures, now???

  • Rebecca R. Schedler says:

    I’m so glad these bears were rescued and can now live a great life!