In 2012, PETA conducted an undercover investigation at Chief Saunooke Bear Park (CSBP), a roadside collection of bear pits in Cherokee, North Carolina. CSBP confines bears to desolate concrete cells, where they are forced to beg for food and are deprived of all that is natural and important to them. Renowned game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker has joined PETA in calling for the bears to be rescued.
PETA's investigator found that the bored and frustrated bears turn endlessly in circles. One of them routinely rocks back and forth—a sign of profound deprivation and stress. They bite the metal cage bars, which breaks their teeth. This is painful and can cause bone infections, so it requires veterinary care, but PETA's investigator never saw a veterinarian at CSBP or the bears given any pain relief.
Workers sometimes leave the bears, who have a remarkably well-developed sense of smell, trapped amid their own waste all day long. Instead of removing feces, they spray a citrus-scented product into the pits. One worker told PETA's investigator, "You just got to be careful because [federal officials] think you're trying to hide something. Which we are."
A worker blamed the bears' persistent loose stool on bread, but CSBP kept feeding it to them and selling it to visitors to throw to them. CSBP's manager and bear handler admitted that workers deny bears food because, "If you feed them … they ain't gonna eat for people." The manager boasted that he sprays water at one bear "all the time … to get his ass up" and force him onto display.
The park's bear handler said it took "20 shots … in the head" to kill one of CSBP's bears. He said that there is "[n]othing better than a bear that's been eating bread and apples all its life. Meat's good."
The manager admitted that he gets high at CSBP "just to change things up" and that CSBP refuses to hire Native Americans, who own the park land and whom one worker called "long-distance corn ni**ers." The bear handler threatened to "knock out" a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian and said that he would "probably trap her" in a pit with a bear if "it ever [came] down to life and death."
In June 2012, the USDA charged CSBP with violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and requested that its license be revoked or suspended. PETA submitted its evidence, which shows that many apparent AWA violations continue to occur, to the USDA and asked that it confiscate CSBP's bears. In January 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an order that suspended Chief Saunooke Bear Park's exhibitor license and fined the facility $20,000. According to the order, CSBP's license will remain suspended until it is able to demonstrate full compliance with the Animal Welfare Act—if it ever can.
We need your help now to get these highly intelligent animals to safety, where they can forage for a wide variety of foods, dig in soft earth, and roam through brush and leaves instead of pacing year after year on concrete.
take a moment to join tribal elders and urge the tribal
council to close Cherokee’s bear zoos.