Bears Trapped in Sunken Pits Beg Tourists for Food

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2 min read

Shy, family-oriented bears deserve to be roaming a vast expanse of forest, foraging, choosing when and with whom to conceive, and following their natural hibernation patterns. But at the Cherokee Bear Zoo in Cherokee, North Carolina, these sensitive animals are confined to barren concrete pits with practically no shade, and they have nothing to do but beg for food from tourists who pay to stand above and gawk at them.

Disturbing video footage of the bears captured by an eyewitness on May 28 shows them pacing in endless circles in their tiny, barren pits, a behavior associated with psychological distress. Another bear licks his or her paw, a possible sign of osteoarthritis or a foot injury, likely caused from living on concrete. Several of the pits also contained shredded black mats. They had presumably been given to the bears in a feeble attempt to relieve the pain of living on concrete, but they could kill a bear who ingested them. In another video uploaded to Facebook, a young bear cub is confined alone and gnaws at the bars of her cage, another sign of psychological distress. In nature, she would have stayed with her mom for two years.

PETA sent the eyewitness video, along with a formal complaint, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting an investigation into potential violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act and appropriate action up to and including revoking the Cherokee Bear Zoo’s license and confiscating the animals.

The USDA has cited other facilities that confine bears on concrete in barren conditions— including the Deer Haven Mini Zoo in Maryland, Pymatuning Deer Park in Pennsylvania, and the Denver Zoo—and PETA is asking that the agency crack down on the Cherokee Bear Zoo, too.

Shortly after PETA’s investigation of the nearby Chief Saunooke Bear Park broke, the USDA suspended its exhibitor’s license and slapped it with a $20,000 fine. The facility is now closed, and the bears live in a spacious, natural enclosure at a reputable sanctuary.

What You Can Do

Help us do it again. Urge the Cherokee Bear Zoo to close the bear pits and let the bears finally live in peace.


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