Black Bears in Zoo
An Animal Rights Article from

This short study of captive black bears in the Jackson Mississippi Zoo clearly shows that the bears really have no rights and are not happy in their habitat.  The bears appear to physically well cared for, but their emotional well being is not.

For all intent and purpose these bears are in prison for no crime other than wanting to live free as God intended.

The black bear's emotional state was immediately perceived by Meg and Bruce Stuckey when they visited the zoo on 17 May 2008.  Following are copies of their correspondence with the Jackson Zoo and with us, and several of the photo they took:

Letter from Meg to us - 17 May 2008

I found your website and would like to include you on the email below that I sent a few minutes ago to the Jackson Zoo. I really don't know who is the right person to report this to and get something done. You seem to be a possibility.

Thank you, Meg Stuckey

Meg's letter to the Jackson Zoo - 17 May 2008

I'm not sure if you are the right person to contact, but I hope that if you are not, you will forward this to the person who can take care of this.

My husband and I visited your zoo today and are very concerned about the health of the black bears. One of them was pacing around in a circle which is suppose to be indicative of insanity. Another bear that was more brown was molting and panting terribly and looked absolutely miserable. Their surroundings are a far cry from their natural environment.

I understand that funds are limited, but please don't take it out on the animals. If you can't provide for them well, then you shouldn't have them. You should only have what you can do well with within your means of income.

Please either correct the situation for the mental and physical health of the black bears or send them to someone who can.

We frequent the Smoky Mountains and know what healthy black bears should look and act like.

Thank you,

Meg Stuckey

Our reply to Meg - 18 May 2008

Dear Meg:

Thank you very much for your concern and for sending us a copy of your letter to the Jackson Zoo. We wish more people would also write. It would also be helpful it you would write about this in a letter to the editor of the Jackson newspapers. The key is to expose these horrors to the public so that public opinion will force an end to the exploitation and mental cruelty. Did you take any photos? They could really help.

We will also publicize this information, and see what we can do to change this situation at the Jackson Zoo.

In the Love of the Lord,

Frank and Mary

Meg's reply to us - 18 May 2008

Please see the response below from the zoo. I have to differ with him as far as their circling only a few times. The rest I have to take his word for it.

What we saw each time of the healthiest bear was laying down and barely moving and the other black bear almost constantly pacing back and forth near the back fence yesterday and today.

(Black Bears in Zoo - 01) The healthiest of the 3 bears was lethargic in my opinion. He laid in one spot today and we went back 3 times around to see changes. The way he was laying in the shade yesterday, I wondered if he were actually alive.

(Black Bears in Zoo - 02) We had a hard time getting pictures of the molting black bear because he/she stayed in the back and was pacing back and forth by the fence and was mostly behind some logs. She was pacing most of the time yesterday also.

The cinnamon bear was also panting miserably yesterday afternoon while laying near the pond and this morning she was pacing back and forth by the fence near the front for most of the time until she went to the pond.

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I haven't notified local newspapers yet because I want to make sure I'm not overreacting to something that is normal. I've done some research today on the internet and from what I read it sounds like they would definitely fail the test especially compared to a report I read on What do you think from looking at these photos?

Reply from the Jackson Zoo - 18 May 2008

Mrs. Stuckey:

Thank you for your e-mail in regards to our North American black bear. First Let me say that our group receives the finest care possible by a very dedicated staff. Each bear is given an annual physical and all three are in excellent physical condition given their various ages.

The 14 year old cinnamon black bear is a problem child during her annual shedding of her winter coat. Why she, unlike the other two, is this way we have not been able to figure out. We have tried giving her various items to rub on with mixed success. We are now looking at some other options that may allow her to "brush" herself out, if she'll use them. While she is unsightly right now she does use the pool and rolls around in the dirt to help keep her cool and remove some of the shed.

I suspect the bear you saw going in circles was the older female. At 34 1/2 years of age she is usually found sleeping in the back corner. If your visit was at the end of the day she may have been waiting to get into the den for her p.m. feeding. If in the a.m. she most likely had just come out and she does circle the exhibit a few times. This behavior is typically short lived and most of the day she behaves in a much more bear like fashion. She shows no signs of stereotypic behavior such as hair plucking or over grooming. Nor does she move in circles or walk up and down fence lines on a consistent manner. She does occasionally chose not to shift for us but we're working on that and as we do not use negative reinforcement in our training she occasionally wins.

Our male is the youngest of the lot at 9 1/2 years old and of late has been rather elusive. He is usually the bear everyone sees. Right now I think he has amorous intentions with the ladies and has been hanging out in the back. This bear was wild caught some seven years ago when he was being rather naughty in a residential area in Alabama. At that time he would have been put down but fortunately the local bear coordinator knew we would take him. Our biggest concern with this impressive guy is that he routinely chooses not to shift. Again we continue to work with him through positive reward to get him a little more consistent in his shifting.

As to the exhibit itself. They have moved from small concrete exhibits in both our zoo and the zoo that the two females came from, to a grassy pasture setting. Since the male has not shifted for a few nights it is a bit taller in green growth that we usually like but that will be corrected soon. The design of the exhibit does not allow for a forested setting as you may be used to in the Smoky Mountains, however it is a pretty good grassy meadow that we do allow native plants to grow in. It is very amusing watching the bears dig for grubs and tear up the logs we give them for enrichment.

I hope this sets your mind at ease on these wonderful critters. The older female is one of the oldest black bears in captivity right now and most never reach this age. Older bears typically develop various cancers though she is currently showing no signs of this.


Dave Wetzel Assistant Zoo Director
Jackson Zoo
2918 West Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39209
(601) 352-2590

Our reply to Meg - 18 May 2008

Dear Meg:

Thank you very much for sending us all of those photos. Considering that you saw the back and forth pacing both times you were these, we believe you are correct in your analysis. We agree with the zoo that this is a much better habitat than they had before, and the stereotypic pacing may have begun before they moved to the new location.

This is the main problem with zoos in general. No matter how much they say they try, they cannot give the animals a natural life. Their primary goal is really not the welfare of the animals, but to exhibit them to the public, which results in their exploitation.

In the Love of the Lord,

Frank and Mary

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