Is it illegal to wrestle a bear in Alabama?

ALABAMA (WHNT) — The history of bear fighting laws in Alabama is a bit more complicated than one might think.

The practice of people wrestling bears was fairly common in the 1980s and reportedly gave Paul “Bear” Bryant his nickname. While animal rights activists call the practice cruel, it wasn’t until 1996 that legislation outlawed it.

Protests against the practice date back to 1989, according to the Times Daily. That report states that protesters outnumbered them at a mobile bar hoping to see a bear wrestling competition. In particular, they were hoping to see “Terrible Ted.”

“Ted” was a 6ft 3 bear who remained locked in a cage at the bar until a challenger approached to wrestle him. His neck was chained, he had no claws, he had no teeth, and his arm muscles were severed to prevent him from grasping anything.

It was also known that the bear did not visit the Ponderosa Club in New Hope until 1996 — the same year the practice was banned by the Alabama legislature.

Under a 2006 section of the Alabama Code, the law outlawed bear exploitation and established penalties to punish those who continued the practice.

The 2006 Code states:

A person commits the offense of unlawful bear exploitation if they knowingly do any of the following:

– Promotes, participates in, or is engaged in a bear wrestling match

– receives money for admitting another person to a place reserved for bear wrestling

– Sell, buy, own or train a bear for bear fighting

2006 Alabama Code – Section 13A-12-5

The law also prohibited the surgical modification of a bear for the purpose of wrestling, and any bears confiscated for violating this law were placed in a humane shelter.

That law was on the books for nearly 20 years — until it fell in 2015 as part of the legislature’s attempt to scrap laws that were “outdated or no longer fit for purpose.”

However, the repealed law doesn’t mean it’s legal to wrestle bears again. Current Alabama animal cruelty laws could cover wrestling with bears because they include provisions for “cruel abuse” and “cruel neglect” of animals in your care.

The law does not set out a way for bear wrestling to be legal in the future.

So… is bear wrestling illegal in Alabama? Technically it isn’t; However, you may find yourself in legal hot water or down the jaws of a hungry bear if you try.