Local News

Treatment of bear at Fayetteville ranch sparks debate

Posted May 17, 2011

Ben, a 550-pound black bear, has lived in a 22-by-12-foot cage at Jambbas Ranch in Fayetteville since 2006, owner James Bass said. He lives off a diet of dog food and bread and attracts visitors to the ranch, which also houses goats and buffalo.

— A Fayetteville ranch owner responded to allegations Tuesday that a bear he keeps in a chain link and concrete pen on his property is being treated inhumanely.

Ben, a 550-pound black bear, has lived in a 22-by-12-foot cage at Jambbas Ranch on Tabor Church Road since 2006, owner James Bass said. He lives off a diet of dog food and bread and attracts visitors to the ranch, which also houses goats, turtles, llamas and buffalo.

"People come to see the bear," Bass said. "We're a working ranch. We don't pretend to be a zoo."

The animal rights group People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals, however, has alleged that Ben's living conditions are cruel. Celebrity PETA activist Bob Barker, former host of "The Price is Right," wrote a letter to the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners last week calling the bear's treatment "miserable and unnatural."

In his letter, Barker said that in videos he has seen of Ben, the bear paces frequently as if to express frustration and stress.

Bass, however, said Ben only paces when people gather around him because he expects them to feed him.

"I don't think he's unhappy," Bass said. "He was born in captivity."

In January, Bass was cited for keeping exotic animals, but he successfully petitioned commissioners to change the county ordinance to exempt the ranch, which has been in operation for 18 years.

ben the bear Treatment of bear at Fayetteville ranch sparks debate

Commissioner Charles Evans said he went to see the bear's pen first-hand and believes the county made a mistake in changing the law to accommodate just one business.

"Everything else looked okay. Everything else looked decent, but the bear is definitely in a small cage," Evans said.

But he said commissioners are unlikely to revisit the decision unless the community gets involved.

In the meantime, Bass said he's raising money to build a larger enclosure for Ben and provide him with more stimulation.

"We're looking at a tank with some fish in it that he could chase," Bass said. "I don't know if he'll be able to catch them, but he could chase them."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • melissalewis May 19, 2011

    If you live in North Carolina and are interested in helping Ben, please consider attending the Cumberland County commissioners' meeting on June 6th. Please contact Melissa at 757-213-8774 for more information.

  • Call It Like I See It May 19, 2011

    Born in captivity or not, they could at least provide some natural surroundings for the poor thing. Chain link fence and a concrete floor?!? Can we get some trees, perhaps even some bushes and some water for him to play and swim in? That does look like a pretty miserable places to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in... lets use a little common sense.

  • estrauch May 19, 2011

    Here is the link to the FACEBOOK page where I saw the pictures of the animals in poor condition there. Please educate yourself and join the cause to Free Ben and provide better care for these animals.


  • estrauch May 19, 2011

    Phlebotomia.....it's funny that you bring up the condition of the other animals there. True they have more room to roam and are provided a more natural habitat BUT, I have seen pictures of the other animals there that are in poor shape. I have seen pictures and video where the fox lives...very tiny enclosure on a concrete slab growing green algae. Same is true for the raccoon. The Llamas there have open sores and matted fur. The Bison also have sores where they have rubbed up against the rusty wire fence. I will research and see if I can find the link again and post it here for you and others to see. I think STEP 1, is to surrender Ben the bear to a Sanctuary. Ben does not need to be in that type of environment. STEP 2, Wildlife officials need to work with Mr. Bass to improve the conditions for the rest of the animals there. I think Mr. Bass is either uneducated on the proper way to care for those animals or he is overwhelmed and has to many animals to care for.

  • Phlebotomia May 19, 2011

    I have been to the Ranch. I do not beleive the animals there are mistreated. Ben is a part or our community. Children do do field trips there as this is one of the few places that the children can still visit. The problem is that Ben does need a bigger cage. So why cant we as a community preserve this place where our children do enjoy going to. Why cant we just try to solve the problem. Its not that the animals there are mistreated or neglected. He needs a bigger and better home. There is land there at the Ranck where Mr. Bass could put a bigger and better home. Maybe if we really put in our 2cents we can collect enough for the home to be built.

  • samanthawood2006 May 18, 2011

    This is cruel! Poor Ben :(

  • estrauch May 18, 2011

    Mr. Bass claims that Ben paces back and forth in his cage only when people are near him because he is wanting food. I believe this is correct. I've seen the bears at Grandfather Mountain do the exact same thing...begging for food. This is an unnatural behavior for a bear and so is living on a concrete slab with chain link surrounding him. I hope you are reading every single comment here Mr. Bass. You need to know that people are upset with the conditions in which Ben is living. It seems your other animals have free range...grass and room to roam. Ben can't even experience having grass under his feet much less anything to climb. I implore you Mr. Bass to please surrender Ben to a sanctuary that can provide him with the things he needs and deserves! People will not rest until better, more humane arrangements have been made for Ben. WRAL, PLEASE CONTINUE YOUR COVERAGE AND HELP BEN!

  • BrightLight May 18, 2011

    They should have at least let him go to Garner to see Scotty on last Saturday.

  • Narn May 18, 2011

    "But he said commissioners are unlikely to revisit the decision unless the community gets involved."

    Now that the story has aired, the community is getting involved! Someone has to speak up for Ben!

  • Riptide12 May 18, 2011

    WRAL - put this story back on the main page. We have to get the word out in order to help Ben!