PETA Wants Cherokee Chief Dismissed From State Wildlife Commission

Chief Hicks’ Defense of Cruel Bear Pits Demonstrates Disregard for North Carolina Wildlife Laws, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
August 30, 2013 

Contact:
Shakira Croce 202-483-7382 

Cherokee, N.C. —  Today, PETA sent an urgent letter to North Carolina officials—including Gov. Pat McCrory—challenging the recent appointment of Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC). In its letter, PETA points out that Hicks’ outspoken defense of the Cherokee Bear Zoo—a facility that holds bears in barren, concrete pits that fall far short of the habitat requirements set by North Carolina’s wildlife laws—makes him unsuitable for a commission tasked with enforcing those laws.

“Chief Hicks should be shutting down the Cherokee Bear Zoo, not defending it—and until he does, he’s unfit to serve on the North Carolina wildlife commission,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “Chief Hicks supports leaving bears—in other words, North Carolina wildlife—to pace endlessly in desolate concrete pits and beg tourists for scraps, and PETA is calling on North Carolina officials to revoke his inappropriate appointment to the WRC.”

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PETA’s letter to North Carolina officials follows.

August 30, 2013

The Honorable Pat McCrory
Governor of North Carolina

The Honorable Phil Berger
President Pro Tem of the Senate of the State of North Carolina

The Honorable Thom Tillis
Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives

Via e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]

Re: Request to Remove Chief Michell Hicks From Wildlife Resources Commission

Dear Governor McCrory, President Berger, and Speaker Tillis:

I am writing on behalf of PETA and its more than 3 million members and supporters—including approximately 40,000 in North Carolina—to urge you to remove Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC). In defending the Cherokee Bear Zoo (CBZ), a roadside zoo on EBCI land that confines bears to virtually barren concrete pits, Chief Hicks has demonstrated a total disregard for the very laws that the WRC is charged with administering.

Conditions at the CBZ fly in the face of the WRC’s bear standards, which provide that “[b]lack bears held in captivity … shall be held without caging under conditions simulating a natural habitat.” The standards go on to require, among other things, at least one acre for one to two bears, with additional space for more bears, and that at least half of this space be “wooded with living trees, shrubs and other perennial vegetation.” The CBZ confines two black bears in a concrete pit that is approximately 560 square feet and four black bears in a second concrete pit that is approximately 1,080 square feet—a mere 1.3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, of the WRC space requirements. The pits, moreover, are devoid of any vegetation. As a result, these suffering bears pace back and forth, a sure sign of chronic psychological torment.

Chief Hicks even disregards tribal laws intended to protect these complex animals, including the requirement for “species-appropriate enrichment procedures” and the prohibition on “conditions detrimental to [the bears’] health or general welfare.” 

For these reasons, Chief Hicks’ appointment to the body charged with administering North Carolina’s wildlife laws is entirely inappropriate and should be nullified.

Very truly yours, 

Delcianna Winders, Esq.
Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement
PETA Foundation

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— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind