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Victory! With Bear Pit Closed, Animals Get Real Retirement

Written by Michelle Kretzer | July 9, 2013

Today, 11 bears are feeling grass beneath their paws, something that they had never experienced.

© International Exotic Animal Sanctuary

These bears had been imprisoned in concrete pits at Chief Saunooke Bear Park in Cherokee, North Carolina, which PETA has been working to shut down for years. Following a PETA investigation, the roadside zoo paid a fine and surrendered its exhibitor’s license to settle more than a dozen charges for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. 

© International Exotic Animal Sanctuary

And when a private benefactor generously offered to purchase the bears, the zoo’s owner took him up on the offer, and the Chief Saunooke bears were finally outta there! The donor quickly had the bears transferred to their new home at the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary (IEAS) in Dallas. And with the seedy bear pit now closed, the owners have left the business of exhibiting animals behind them.

© International Exotic Animal Sanctuary

Now the Chief Saunooke bears have traded their barren concrete cells for woods, thickets, and ponds at IEAS. Instead of begging tourists for junk food such as Lucky Charms cereal, they feast on fresh plant food, including their favorite treats: avocados, grapes, peanuts, and watermelon. Rather than turning in endless circles or rocking back and forth, they now climb trees, amble through underbrush, and forage. Instead of being sprayed with water to force them to get up and “entertain” tourists, the bears have an animal behaviorist working to help them recover from years of an unnatural life.

To see more photos of the bears and find out how you can “adopt” them, visit IEAS’ website.

And to everyone who sent e-mails, made phone calls, and protested in behalf of these bears, thank you. Now we must get the last remaining pits closed at the Cherokee Bear Zoo and the other 11 bears out.

Commenting is closed.
  • Tracey okc says:

    I am so overwhelmed of this victory I wrote reviews on the travel site telling people to not go to this torturous place Great job keep the good work up I recommend to all PETA supporters to get the app to help with all the take action alerts we are many …thanks

  • Betty Almand says:

    I have been a visitor to the Great Smoky Mountains, and Cherokee ever since I was a very little girl. I am now 72, and I am thrilled to see that these bears got their freedom. To see those poor creatures in those cages was awful, and made the Cherokee indians a mockering of everything that indians are suppose stand for, which is the respect of all animals.

  • Donna says:

    I’m so thrilled to hear this GREAT NEWS for these dear creatures! Thank you PETA for never giving up! My heart is smiling for these bears that can finally be Bears 🙂

  • Lin says:

    Great work guys! Signing petitions & sending emails does work peeps:-))))

  • Taylor says:

    The conditions at the Cherokee bear pits have very little to do with how Native peoples versus whites treat animals, but how we as HUMANS treat animals. It comes down to profit over respect/love for other beings. If only we could unify ourselves to work to end human AND animal suffering! At least one “zoo” in Cherokee is closed, but the bears in the Cherokee Bear Zoo continue to suffer in almost identical conditions as those in the Saunooke Bear Park.

  • Lisbeth Alvarado Sanchez says:

    God Bless all the people who have helped in the liberation of this beautiful animals. Thanks.

  • Barbara Dwyer says:

    There are tears of happiness in my eyes after reading the joyful ending to the heart wrenching saga of these eleven bears. Well done and great thanks to the donor who paid to have these bears freed. Oh, to be rich enough to do gift such a wonderful gift.

  • Elise says:

    Reading stories like this make donating every month worth it!! I am so happy there are success stories like these! I feel so bad for all the poor innocent animals that are abused and taken advantage of every day…all the people that do such horrible things to animals deserve to endure the same treatment and torture that they put animals through! Go PETA!!

  • Cecelia & Eric Stone says:

    Yea for the good guys; shame on any Native Americans; they know better. luv u PETA

  • Valerie Lang Waldin says:

    This is why I have monthly deductions from my checking account for PETA. It’s less than the equivalent of a dinner out but it helps me sleep at night. Part of the budget. Love you PETA.

  • Lori Opper says:

    It is so Good to see the Imprisoned Bears Free at Last!!! Pray the other 11 will be Free Soon!!! Thank you Peta!!!

  • Michelle Neroes says:

    Thank you to everyone that saved these bears, PETA, the donor, and all that started or signed petitions to help the release of these bears. they look so happy.

  • Greg says:

    Great news!!!!!

  • Doreen Hann says:

    Wonderful to see these bears free and in a more natural environment. Thank you to the donor who bought them, and thanks PETA.

  • Evan Jane Kriss says:

    Thank you to the generous and kind hearted individual who saved these bears from lives of misery and desperation. We in the animal community are eternally grateful. To Carol Trujillo, it was not Cherokee people who did this to the bears. Native Americans have respect for the land and the animals. It was people running the bear park in the TOWN of Cherokee. If you need another reason NOT to visit North Carolina, though, take a trip to Tar Heel to visit the largest pig slaughterhouse in the country. Then amble down the little roads into the neighboring communities to see the millions of hog factories, prisons for thousands of pigs who never see sun, feel grass or know any kindness before making that final journey to Tar Heel where they face the horrors of slaughter.

  • Mary says:

    What wonderful news! Really made my day when I read it.

  • Carol Trujillo says:

    Every year I go to North Carolina, but I won’t go to Cherokee because of the bear “exhibit”. Thank you PETA for your fight to free these bears. Now, try to stop some of the other practices of the Cherokees regarding animals.

  • Victoria Collins says:

    THANK YOU PETA for saving all these Bears

  • Joan Loveless says:

    Believe in your dreams and work to follow that with feavor and dedication. Thanks for those who spearheaded this release..I commend you.

  • Bob Smith says:

    At last a happy story to read. Thanks to the benefactor and PETA.

  • Janet Martucci says:

    Many thanks to the benefactor who put his/her funds to such great use — freeing the bears! I pray for the release of the other bears every day.

  • Lin Pirretti says:

    Thank you PETA for the great work you did to get these bear pits closed down. And, a huge thanks to the donor who was so generous in helping get this down. Now, we have to get the other remaining 11 bears out of the Cherokee pits. Let’s keep the pressure up!

  • carol caver says:

    A big “thank you” to everyone at Peta, for your unceasing efforts to release these bears from their lives of confinement, and many, many thanks to the benefactor who made this possible. What a wonder legacy to leave behind.

  • Heather Querin says:

    Keep up the great work people! Thumbs up to all who contributed to setting things right.

  • Sylvia Wainer says:


  • Phyl says:

    What a shame they were incarcerated for so long. Thankfully they can now finally enjoy relative freedom. I am happy for them.

  • Lindsey says:

    I am so thankful to the donor who paid for these bears to have a real retirement! You ended years of suffering!

  • bonnie says:

    I am so glad these bears are free. I’m so glad we can make these victories happen. Thanks PETA.

  • Pappapumped says:

    Great news! Finally a piece of great news,thanks too all that signed the petitions & helped too free the Bears,thanks PETA!

  • Dazzle59 says:

    Fantastic news – makes my day. Thanks to PETA, the benefactor and all the activists who helped to free these bears!

  • Sharon Mora says:

    I’m glad to see some of the bears freed, however, Cherokee has been known for it’s unsavory animal torturing such as electrical shocks to make chickens “dance” and keeping large animals in pens too small as mentioned above in the article. Please keep up the good work so that no animal has to suffer at the hands of the Cherokees.

  • Stanka says:

    Help the Animals.

  • Claudia-Susann Berg says:

    Thank you so much, to give back all of them the freedom.

  • Sandra Livsey says:

    This is such a wonderful ending to a very grim life for these bears. Many long years!

  • chander kumar soni says:

    feeling proud.


    PLEASE !!!!