When most of us think about bears, we envision a naturally beautiful habitat out in the wild, free of human interference. The life of a wild bear is long and fruitful — however, this whimsical picture is far from the horrors endured by bears living in captivity.

Black Forest Bear Park (BFBP) in Helen, Ga., was one such living hell for 17 bears forced to live in near barren, filthy concrete pits, having to beg for scraps of food from tourist. They lived mundane and unhealthy lives filled with despair before rescue came in the form of kindhearted humans. With the combined efforts of PETA, PETA member Sam Simon, and the Atlanta Humane Society, something great happened.

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Earlier this year, the 17 neglected bears found themselves being saved from the concrete pits of the roadside zoo and were relocated to the grassy safe-haven of an animal sanctuary.

“The difference between the miserable existence that these bears endured for years and the freedom and joy that they’re now experiencing is the difference between night and day,” said PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Bears don’t belong in roadside zoos, deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them, including being able to feel the earth beneath their feet.”

Rescue efforts began by transporting two pregnant bears, Ursula and O.B., then later the others, to their new home at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo., so they could give birth in a natural habitat for bears. And that’s exactly what happened for Ursula late January! Watch this short video of mama bear emerging from hibernation with her newborn cubs and be prepared to smile.

You will be delighted to know that all 17 bears rescued from the now closed down BFBP are doing quite well on the whopping 60-acre habitat at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. In fact, they are as happy as bears rolling around in real grass and breathing in fresh mountain air! The freedom that these beautiful bears now have is priceless, the start to a soon distant memory of the hellhole that was originally a horrific life-sentence.

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These seventeen have been rescued, but there are still other bears currently living in captivity in similar concrete pits and small pens suffering from severe stress and mental anguish. Read more about the BFBP bear rescue and learn how you can help bears by taking action now on PETA’s website.

Image Source: PETA

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