roadside bears

Roadside Bears: From Concrete To Sanctuary For Cherokee Bears After Years-Long Battle

Eleven roadside bears that were at the center of a long-standing controversy in Cherokee, North Carolina are now in their new home at the 50 acre International Exotic Animal Sanctuary (IEAS) in Boyd, Texas.

The roadside bears were kept for years in hard concrete pits in the Chief Saunooke Bear Park (CSBP) in Cherokee. As you can see in the top photo posted last week on the IEAS Facebook page, the bears now enjoy a $450,000 natural habitat that allows them to walk and even nap on soft ground.

The IEAS blog said that they are the only Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited animal sanctuary in the United States. They were able to rescue the two Moon bears, six black bears, and three grizzly bears after the CSBP was closed by the USDA in January.

IEAS Executive Director Richard Gilbreth described the bears’ new home this way:

“[E]ach habitat is over one acre in size and provides the resident bears with a natural home, complete with innumerable trees to climb, brush and thickets to venture through, and even ponds and water tubs where they can cool off. The team placed 2.5 miles of piping and put up 1.5 miles of fencing to prepare space for these bears and they are responding well. They are already forming companionships with each other.”

The Asheville Citizen-Times has posted an indepth story on the controversy that led to the rescue of the roadside bears. They noted that IEAS had six years of experience with bears. They also had plenty of land.

So they seemed like the ideal candidate to rescue the Cherokee bears.

However, what the IEAS didn’t have was the funds to build the $450,000 six acre habitat. That’s when an anonymous donor stepped forward to help out, allowing the sanctuary to complete construction in less than three months.

You can see the roadside bear habitat construction underway in this video:

And here is a video report from ABC13 about the US Department of Agricultural’s 14 complaints against the Chief Saunooke Bear Park (CSBP). In addition to providing poor care for the 11 bears, the USDA alleged that there were two bear attacks on humans:

Thanks to a generous donor and the IEAS, the Cherokee roadside bears now have a real home.

[Sarah, one of the rescued roadside bears, photo by IEAS via Facebook]