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Future of Saunooke Bear Park

Updated: Thursday, January 31 2013, 01:00 PM EST

The future is unknown for a bear park on the Cherokee Reservation that was forced to close.

The USDA shut down the Chief Saunooke Bear Park in Cherokee this month. This comes on the heels of an undercover video released by animal rights group PETA, revealing what they call poor conditions.

Last fall, the USDA charged the park's owner with 14 animal welfare violations.  The owner must pay a $20,000 fine, comply with USDA regulations and reapply for a license. But until then, the future is unknown for the business and the bears at the park. 

Chief Michell Hicks says the park closure and recent closure of Highway 441 is bad news for local business.   Hicks says the bear park did not violate a 20 year tribe ordinance that defines how to care for bears, an ordinance he says needs to be revised.  Hicks adds tribal leaders will be considering a better way to care for bears through a possible bear preserve on the reservation.

Follow Ingrid Allstaedt on Twitter @IngridNews13

Future of Saunooke Bear Park

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