Ricki the black bear is finally free! She spent 16 years living as a tourist attraction at Jim Mack’s Ice Cream shop, located off Lincoln Highway, living in a concrete enclosure at the Pennsylvania ice cream shop. Many characterized her life as one of solitude and misery. She is going to spend the rest of her life at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, according to One Green Planet and the Associated Press.
For 25 cents, visitors could purchase a handful of treats to feed her. That was her only socialization.
Many people worldwide who care about animal rights were concerned about the mental and physical toll the enclosure took on Ricki, as she lived in a caged enclosure with a cement floor that many said was too small for a full-grown black bear, and was not given mental or physical enrichment. She paced back and forth, a stress sign. The bear was fed a diet of corn and dog food that was delivered to her from a funnel.
Sarah Speed, the Pennsylvania director for the Humane Society of the United States, noted that the food Ricky received was inappropriate for bears, which typically forage on a variety of plant foods and berries. There was no solid evidence that she received supplemental food, Speed added, in the Patriot News, on December 31, 2014.
Hearing of Ricki’s plight, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) worked with the Philadelphia-based law firm, BakerHostetler, and filed a lawsuit against James H. McDaniel, Jr., the owner of Jim Mack’s and Ricki’s keeper. The lawsuit alleged that McDaniel violated Pennsylvania regulations requiring humane care and treatment of wildlife and created a public safety risk by keeping Ricki in close proximity to customers. James said that the public outcry for her freedom convinced him to release her.
Kelly Bennett, a Lancaster resident who was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the following.
“I don’t think [Ricki] needs to suffer so people can watch her while they are eating ice cream.”
Citing Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations, the plaintiffs claimed that McDaniel fails to provide “humane care and treatment” for Ricki, arguing that according two “highly credentialed veterinarians,” one of whom is a former director of the Baltimore Zoo, Ricki is “suffering as a result of the tiny size of her enclosure, its hard concrete floor, the absence of any environmental enrichment, her inability to engage in essential bear activities such as climbing and foraging, and other deprivations.”
The following is according to the Associated Press.
“The Animal Legal Defense Fund announced Little Ricki’s release Monday [February 9, 2015], ending a legal and animal rights battle that drew worldwide attention.”
Because she lived in captivity her entire life, she will need to be rehabilitated to acclimate to her new-found freedom. She isn’t even used to the feeling of grass under her paws. Eventually, she will have access to the sanctuary’s 720 acres of rolling grassland, where she will learn to forage, swim, and play like a regular bear. Because the sanctuary also cares for other rescued bears, she may also be able to interact and bond with other animals as well.
It’s been said that Ricki would give her heroes who saved her a bear hug, if she could.
Unlike the confined Ricki, a rare bear cub was just found on a doorstep in Spain, potentially looking for food, as noted in the Inquisitr.
How do you feel about wild animals being kept in captivity in these circumstances?
[Image via PennLive]