An undercover investigation by PETA has found that bears at Yellowstone Bear World have been verbally abused and threatened with violence.
The Idaho-based bear-breeding enterprise, which charges people to pose with and feed bear cubs, was already on PETA’s radar. The park was known for prematurely separating cubs from their mothers. It now stands accused of employing abusive handlers.
The footage, narrated by actor Alec Baldwin, shows one supervisor threatening to rip out a bear cub’s teeth “one by one.”
Another instructs staff to always carry sticks with them to “beat” any bear that approaches. The same supervisor is shown telling workers to withhold pain medication from a cub with a fractured leg because it was “too good.”
Traumatized bear cubs
In more footage collected by PETA, bear cubs are shown to be trying to escape and crying out whilst being passed around by paying tourists. Many try to nurse on workers’ chins and arms after being deprived of the opportunity to feed from their mothers.
Once cubs grow too large to be held by members of the public, they are used in bottle-feeding experiences instead.
PETA has submitted its evidence of abuse to the USDA and Idaho Fish and Game. The animal rights organization is seeking a full investigation into violations of animal welfare and captive wildlife laws.
Due to many workers being injured by bears, worker-safety law transgressions are also highlighted for further examination. These were flagged to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“At Yellowstone Bear World, traumatized cubs have been torn away from their mothers, threatened with violence, and forced into photo ops to line this sleazy operation’s pockets,” Debbie Metzler, PETA Foundation’s director of captive animal welfare said in a statement.
“PETA is calling on the authorities to crack down on Yellowstone Bear World and urging everyone to stay away from any business that profits from the suffering of vulnerable animals.”
Inadequate nutrition alongside abuse claims
In addition to threats of violence, PETA is concerned about the bears’ basic physical well-being.
It was noted that animals were denied fresh fruits and vegetables, which are essential to their health. In their place, bears were fed a diet rich in meat, bread, and sweets. They were also forced to fast for one day per week.
When an investigator offered bear cubs fresh water to drink and play in, supervisors reportedly complained about paying customers having to “pet a wet cub.”
Yellowstone Bear World’s inconsistent claims
A supervisor at the bear-breeding operation told an investigator that one cub was rehomed in Nebraska after being found to be “too feisty” for interactions with the public. A deep dive into government records revealed that she was sold to an exotic animal dealer.
The dealer has a history of selling cubs to other exhibition companies or condemning them to slaughter.
Yellowstone has a longstanding business relationship with the dealer. In the past 10 years, it has sold more than 88 bears to them. Four cubs are recorded as changing hands this year.
Bears kept at Yellowstone are housed in a drive-through park. There, they beg visitors for food and can be seen displaying behavior that is linked to psychological distress. Animals are frequently witnessed pacing back and forth.
The call to end bear exploitation
Yellowstone Bear World is not the only enterprise being targeted by PETA. Most recently, the organization criticized Kodiak Cakes and Zac Efron for an advertising campaign featuring a captive bear named Tank.
Branding the move hypocritical, the animal rights advocacy group called on Efron and Kodiak Cakes to pull its advert or replace Tank with a CGI bear.
Jason Momoa came under fire for similar activity in 2019.