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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.
  • Christina says:

    Wonderful news for the bears and for animal lovers!

  • Andrea Lang says:

    These heartwarming news made my day. 11 beautiful bears have a future in their life. Thank you to all of you who took aktion!

  • philip patterson says:

    thank god for you! peta! for saving these wonderful bears! someone has to stand up for animals…..i’m glad you do! thank you!

  • Katherine Stott says:

    This makes me incredibly happy and further proves that conscious thought, movement and determination can change the world. So much happiness for these beautiful creatures who get to live out their lives in peace.

  • love of animals says:

    wonderful fantastic news !!!! thank you PETA

  • PJ says:

    My heart ached for these bears when I read about them. I am so happy and relieved that Peta’s hard work and everyone that sent email’s, phone calls and protested helped free them and to all of Peta’s efforts that made it possible for these bears to live the rest of their days the way God meant for them to live..out in the wild, free and with other bears, not in cages. Thank you so much Peta workers!! Lets keep it going and free all animals that are caged and abused.. Way to go Peta!!

  • Jean Chagnon says:


  • Jean Chagnon says:


  • Michelle Gilbert says:

    This is terrific news!! When signing petitions I always wonder if it will make an impact. This is proof it does!! A job well done to all involved and to a peaceful retirement to our furry friends.

  • DonnaBrown says:

    Thanks to the donor who purchased the bears. And, a big thanks to PETA for all their hard work.

  • Michele Bonsangue says:

    the bears actually look like their smiling!! I’m smiling too. I’m so very happy that their miserable incarceration is behind them. Yay Peta!!

  • monica says:

    SOOOOO Happy for them!!!! THANK YOU PETA!!!!!

  • Carlos Ricci says:

    Basta de maltrato animal y especismo.

  • Melvin says:

    PETA is doing the Lord’s work. Thank God for PETA.

  • babby660 says:

    Yeah, let’s get the rest of the bears out

  • Alexis F. says:

    Thanks to everyone that made this possible. You guys are angels. You really are ANGELS. =o)

  • Holly says:

    Thank God and Thankyou PETA and the donor and everyone who helped sign petitions and send letters and make phone calls! Like Patti, my heart explodes with joy when even one animal is saved by people who take the time to care!

  • Phyllis Hawkins says:

    Dear PETA and Ingrid Newkirk, You are angels on earth with all of the amazing work you do! Congratulations on yet another important victory for animals, this time for abused bears. It is demoralizing that there is so much more that must be done for so many other animals. Please never give up! The world relies on you to lead and guide us.

  • Pattie Tibbetts says:

    I am SO very happy to hear that these bears are now in a beautiful sanctuary where they can live a much more natural life!

  • Cindy says:

    Thank you everyone involved. The world is a little brighter today.

  • Nicole says:

    Way to go PETA!! I love stories like this! Being from Colorado and having seen many bears, free to roam the mountains, its always saddened me that not all bears got the same freedom as the ones I used to see did. Im so happy these 11 cuties get to live properly and get to enjoy things people took away from them. Now people (you) got to be those people who gave it all back. Finally these bears will no longer be let down. I LOVE PETA!!!!!!!

  • Ellen says:

    Awwwwwww … Happy Bear! Great news and great to see. They deserve to be happy. A bit skinny though. I hope that they fatten up! 🙂 Good going is an understatement!

  • Beverley says:

    Fantastic news!!!!!! Am so happy for those beautiful bears. I just hope the other 11 bears can be saved too. Thank you PETA!!!!

  • Alice Fowler says:

    This is encouraging news. My family owns a cabin in the middle of a bear sanctuary, but I’ve never seen a bear there. Other people I know have. Maybe you could transfer the captive bears left at Cherokee to the Pisgah National Forest Bear Sanctuary. I’d like to see them around our cabin!

  • Beverly Gilyeart says:

    I am so happy for those bears! I am so happy to be a PETA supporter!!!!! Thank you PETA!!!!!!!!!

  • Allen Corte' says:

    Words escape me, I am so pleased that these Bears have a life to live, I thank God for all the work and effort that everyone has put forth to free these majestic animals.

  • Carole says:

    I am so happy! Thank you PETA! And thank you for sharing the great news with us!

  • Tookl says:

    What great news!

  • Stacey says:

    Awesome News, it’s heartwarming & inspiring to see all PETA’s hard work pay off and even better that these beautiful, precious bears are finally getting a chance at the life they deserve. My heartfelt thanks to PETA and the bears generous benefactor as well as IEAS. God Bless you all for the wonderful work you do.

  • Mary Roberson says:

    AMEN! So glad to see this finally happened! To see those bears suffering like they did, made me ashamed to say I live in NC.

  • Lisa says:

    I just want to say THANK YOU to the private benefactor for their generous offer to purchase the bears… it’s people like you who make this world a more beautiful place. I promise I will do the same at some point in my future… spread the love xo

  • Michele says:

    I am so glad to hear such great news. The person that made this happen is a hero and I would love to give them a big bear hug! Peace for all.

  • Jackie says:

    This is wonderful news. May these beautiful bears live a long and happy life. A big thank you to the wonderful person that bought the bears and all those that worked for their freedom.

  • Carolyn Jenkins says:

    I am thrilled about the 11 bears that are now living a decent life. I am also thrilled that my e-mails and phone calls did make a difference. Please, everyone do all you can to help in these projects to release animals from the hell that other people give them. Thank you PETA so very much. Carolyn Jenkins I am so glad I contribute to PETA – you prove your worth!!

  • Tracey says:

    What wonderful news! Having grown up in Western NC near Cherokee, I have long been ashamed of the terrible way these bears were treated. I’m so glad they’ve been rescued and pray the others will soon be free as well.

  • PATTI says:

    I am so glad that all the work you did was worth it! I also am so happy that I made my own phone calls and to know that I “me” can make huge changes like this is VERY inspirational . Let,s save the rest of them!!

  • LIZ ALCORN says:


  • Dixie Lee Howe says:

    Celebrate! Thank you PETA!! These intelligent and special animals do not deserve the hideous, horrible life they were forced to lead! You brought joy to their lives! Thank you for honoring, protecting and saving animals!!

  • nicola macdonald says:

    Thank you to those that helped them x

  • Melinda Wines says:

    Please close these horrendous bear pits and release these beautiful souls. They were not meant to be kept in such hell holes.

  • eve says:

    Yay! So proud of you, PETA! Thank you for working so hard for the bears! Now let’s take down Guzoo in Alberta!

  • Janet Riddle says:

    Awesome news!

  • Vanessa says:

    Fantastic news. Thank you to PETA and all you lovely supporters XXX

  • Meher Turner says:

    Finally so good to hear this excellent news.

  • Linda says:

    God bless you for all your hard work resulting in the rescue of these bears!!

  • Devin Padukka says:

    I’m soooooooooooo happy! great work 😀

  • Mary says:

    Yay! I love you, PeTA!!! Keep up the good work!:)

  • daniela says:

    gracias ..por que por personas como ustedes es que animales hoy en dia son liberados de la ignorancia humana .

  • perla olaorte says:

    CONGRATULATIONS! thanks for giving freedom to the bears . Bless you!

  • romi&sash kulundzic says:

    don’t treat animals bad