The Cherokee Bears of North Carolina live in deplorable conditions but you can help them.
It’s a common fact that in our modern day world, more than 3000 animal species are considered endangered. Many more are already extinct.
As human activity becomes more and more intense, our environment and its inhabitants come face to face with new challenges that are difficult to handle. Unfortunately, animals keep getting the short end of the stick. They are quite often used as ‘tools’ for profit, with large species like bears, becoming subjects of severe exploitation for years.
The case of the Cherokee Bears is a particularly pitiful and sad situation. If you’ve never heard about this group of bears, read on to learn more as well as what you can do to help them.
What Are The Cherokee Bears?
First of all, the Cherokee Bears, are bears of different species like grizzly bears (a subspecies of brown bear), Asian Black Bears, and American Black Bears held in captivity, by three roadside zoos, in Cherokee, North Carolina, USA.
Under normal circumstance, bears are mostly omnivorous, large mammals that despite their large weight and body size, are considered as skilled runners, climbers and excellent swimmers. In the wild, they use shelters, such as caves, especially for their winter hibernation period. Some of them can hibernate for up to 100 days.
They’re typically characterized as solitary animals, and their most keen sense is their sense of smell.
So what happens when an animal of this description gets limited, left hungry and forced to engage with constant human presence? Well, meet the Cherokee Bears.
The Cherokee Bears are a group of different species of bears held in captivity in Cherokee, North Carolina, USA.
Living Conditions Of The Cherokee Bears
The bears held by these zoos live in cages surrounded by metal bars and concrete walls. Basically concrete pits lacking any similarities with the bears’ natural habitat in the wild.
The “zoo” houses about 12 of these miserable looking bears in a small very remote tourist spot off a highway in North Carolina. No doubt, the isolation and lack of traffic means you can expect to see some dilapidated structures and facilities holding the animals.
The have lived for many years now in these barren pits, with no vegetation or soft floors to cushion their large bodies.
Even more appalling is the fact that bear cubs are taken from their mothers and used to pose for photos when they are just weeks old!
In the wild, they would remain with their mother for one or two years.
There are no climbing structures, and no structures for proper resting. Plus the concrete walls surrounding the animals, does not permit them to even see what’s going on around them.
As a result of these inhumane conditions, the Cherokee Bears have developed some worrisome behaviors. These behaviors are glaring symptoms of great distress and fatigue. Some of them include:
- Turning in tight circles and pacing endlessly.
- Breaking their own teeth and nails from biting the metal bars and from trying to dig on the concrete floors.
- These animals are prone to early-onset arthritis because of the very hard floor.
- In addition, tourists report seeing the bears constantly begging for food because of hunger.
The Cherokee Bears are so hungry they often beg for visitors to toss them scraps of food.
Efforts To Free The Bears So Far
Because of these deplorable and critical conditions, locals and a visitors are now fighting to win a better life for these bears.
- In 2012 a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) investigator visited the Chief Saunooke Bear Park (one of the 3 notorious zoos. After filling a report describing the inhumane conditions of the park, the zoo was issued a fine.
The fine was for $20,000 and it eventually led to the closure of the zoo. Six bears were saved and relocated to a sanctuary as a result of the closure. There was one American black bear, two Asian black bears, and three grizzly bears
- In 2017 two Indian tribal elders instituted another lawsuit against the Cherokee Bear Zoo. This was also because of the conditions of the captive bears and the case is now on its way to the courts.
How Can You Help The Cherokee Bears?
There’s already some little improvements in the living conditions of the Cherokee Bears owing to overwhelming criticism and outcry. However, it’s still highly important that the remaining bears are relocated completely.
Since they have lived in captivity for so long, returning them to the wild may be counterproductive. Hence, they’ll need a specially controlled and appropriately designed environment to live in. Bear sanctuaries exist and will serve the purpose well.
One major way you can help is by putting pressure on the owners of the Cherokee Bear Zoo to release all their bears to a reputable sanctuary. Only then would the bears stand a chance to spend the rest of their lives in a more natural setting.
To achieve the above, the decision maker that can make it happen is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). They are critical to getting the bears released. You can reach them through their website to express your views on the matter.
Getting these animals out of their concrete prisons is not just a matter of conservation but an indication of our regard for the creatures that share this world with us.