Tell Cherokee to Close Cruel Bear Pits

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Originally Posted: 5 Aug 2010

Tell Cherokee to Close Cruel Bear Pits

[Ed. Note: Also see Send Cherokee Bears to Sanctuary, alerted posted August 2009.]

FROM People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Cherokee's roadside zoos are located on tribal land and are heavily dependent on tourism. Please contact Mary Jane Ferguson, director of marketing and promotion for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' tourism agency, and politely urge her to help close Cherokee's bear pits.

Also, please contact Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack and urge the USDA to act on PETA's 63-page bear welfare report documenting serious problems found at these facilities by a team of bear experts.


Sign an online petition

And/Or make direct contact:

Cherokee Welcome Center
Director of Marketing & Promotion
Mary Jane Ferguson
phone (800) 438-1601

Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
phone (202) 720-3631
fax (202) 720-2166


Tucked away in the Qualla Boundary area of western North Carolina are three roadside zoos—Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park, and Santa's Land—that keep bears in grossly inhumane conditions. As though locked in a 1950s time warp, these Cherokee facilities display neurotic, hungry bears in desolate concrete pits or cramped cages. The captive bears pace back and forth, walk in endless circles, cry, whimper, fight with one another, and beg tourists to toss them a morsel of food.

Bears are highly intelligent animals capable of a wide range of feelings, such as empathy, fear, joy, and playfulness. In their natural habitat, these curious and energetic animals spend their time exploring diverse terrain, foraging for a wide variety of foods, and digging in soft earth, brush, and leaves.

Surrounded by four solid walls, the bears in Cherokee's bear pits cannot scan the horizon, gain a perspective on their surroundings, or make much use of their acute sense of smell. The barren, concrete cages lack climbing structures, foraging opportunities, barriers for privacy, and substrate for digging, resting, and nest-building.

The public is encouraged to purchase food to feed to the bears, which causes these proud animals to whimper and beg for a piece of kibble or sliver of apple. Unregulated public feeding can result in overfeeding and underfeeding, and it instigates fighting among the bears.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited these facilities for serious violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act—for unsafe handling, for failure to provide veterinary care to sick animals, and because of filthy conditions—but the agency has not taken action to remedy the bears' cruel living conditions.

Thank you for everything you do for animals!