Billboard warns Cherokee visitors of bear danger

Cherokee, North Carolina (AP) July 2011

An animal rights group is publicizing potential danger to children in an effort to shut down Cherokee’s bear zoos.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that a new billboard near Asheville shows a little girl crying with a bloodied bandage on her hand and the words: “Children Bitten at Bear Pits.”

The billboard is the latest in a two-year battle that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has waged against bear zoos on the reservation. Some of the zoos are concrete block pens that let tourists see and feed bears from above. PETA says they are inhumane.

Zoo owners say the tourist attractions are important to the local economy.

The billboard stems from an incident last summer in which a 9-year-old girl was bitten while feeding a baby bear.