Bear Country U.S.A.
Oct 21, 2012
|Bear Country U.S.A.
Since we are such animal lovers, and had such a great time when we visited back in 2009, we just had to come back and enjoy this wonderful experience. The neat thing about Bear Country is that it’s a three-mile drive through several enclosures that include black bear, elk, reindeer, deer, cougars, bobcats, rocky mountain goats, arctic wolves, timber wolves, bighorn sheep, dall sheep and buffalo. There is over 250 acres of tall towering pines and meadows for these wonderful animals, and is the home of the largest collection of privately owned black bear in the world.
My (Debbie)absolute favorite animals to watch are the baby bear cubs. In 2009, we were here in the summer and there were around 30 baby cubs. I spent at least two hours watching them play and taking tons of pictures and videos. This time, being October, there were only four cubs but they were so entertaining and cute and I spent over an hour enjoying them.
The cubs are born in early January while their mothers are in hibernation. The cubs stay with their mothers for eight weeks. Then, in early March, Bear Country handlers remove the cubs from their dens, and staff members bottle feed the babies for another six to eight weeks. They take the babies from their mothers for their survival, as the male bears would kill them.
In the wild, only 40% of cubs see the end of their first year. At Bear Country, the survival rate is substantially higher (98%). By human-imprinting the animals shortly after birth (2 months) they are able to manage them as adults making vaccinating and moving them much easier and safer.
Along with the bears, park staff members raise young timber wolves, arctic wolves, bobcats and mountain lions throughout the late winter, spring and early summer as they are born at Bear Country.
The recently expanded Wildlife Center displays the young and smaller animals and this is where you can get out of your car and take a closer look. This is where the baby bear cubs live. The black bear cubs and young wolf pups romp through the grassy enclosures. Besides the bear cubs, a couple of our other main displays are the otters who love to play in their waterfalls and pools and the adult grizzly bears. The center also displays young bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes. Smaller animals, such as foxes, raccoon, porcupine, lynx, beaver, badger and skunks, also make the Wildlife Center their home.
How Did Bear Country U.S.A Come To Be?
Dr. Dennis "Doc" Casey, and his wife Pauline, opened Bear Country U.S.A. in August 1972 with 11 black bear, one cougar, one wolf, three buffalo and one large bull elk. The park is still owned and operated by Pauline and 3 of her children; Shannon, Mike and John. The wildlife has expanded in the past 28 years featuring over 200 black bear and various other wildlife.
"There were no zoos nearby when we opened," says Pauline Casey. "We wanted the people of Rapid City to enjoy the animals like we did. What we envisioned as a local attraction has grown to draw people from all over North American and some foreign countries."
The biggest change at Bear Country has been the number of animals living at the park. Most of the wildlife are born on the premises and are hand-raised by the park staff. Every spring the Casey's look forward to a new crop of bear cubs.
We look forward to visiting again some time.