Outrage over 2 NC bears living in ‘tiny’ roadside cages leads to rescue

Outrage over 2 NC bears living in ‘tiny’ roadside cages leads to rescue
Booger paced incessantly in her tiny concrete-floored cell and bit the bars of her cage, according to PETA. (Credit: Photo provided to the Observer courtesy of PETA)
Booger paced incessantly in her tiny concrete-floored cell and bit the bars of her cage, according to PETA. (Credit: Photo provided to the Observer courtesy of PETA)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - Ben and Booger, bears that lived in tiny, almost barren cages at an animal park in Wilmington, left on Tuesday for a new life at a Colorado sanctuary.

Their rescue from Tregembo Animal Park resulted from a settlement in a lawsuit filed in August by two N.C. residents. Represented by PETA and two local law firms, the residents contended that the roadside zoo's treatment of the bears violated North Carolina's anti-cruelty statute.

The settlement agreement also permits the plaintiffs to challenge the roadside zoo in court should Tregembo seek to acquire new bears, PETA said in a news release on Tuesday.

Ben, 14, and Booger, 15, are headed to the Wild Animal Sanctuary , a 720-acre refuge for more than 450 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other rescued carnivores.

"The bears' days of languish in tiny cages are over," Brittany Peets, the PETA Foundation's director of captive animal law enforcement, said in the release. "PETA is thrilled that they are headed to a spacious sanctuary, where they'll finally be able to roam, swim, dig, and just be bears."

PETA said Ben and Booger's enclosures were less than 0.0004 percent of the minimum territory a bear would cover in nature. Booger paced repeatedly – a symptom of mental anguish caused by deprivation and distress, according to PETA. The condition is known as zoochotic behavior.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the park in 2015 for failing to provide Ben, who is obese, with appropriate veterinary care for severe facial lesions that left him with scarring on both corneas, PETA said.

The Observer left phone and email messages with Tregembo Animal Park on Tuesday night but has not heard back.