Stay in your car! Don’t feed the bears! Here at Bear Country USA in the Black Hills of South Dakota, drive your vehicle down a three mile path to get up-close views of bears and more. Although you will find virtually every large animal in the Rockies here: elk, moose, bobcats, bighorn sheep, wolves and more, the bears seem to be the big drawing card. Over 200 Black Bears , “the largest privately owned collection of black bears in the world”, make their home here at Bear Country.
Driving through towering pines and rolling meadows, signs suggest that observers keep their windows rolled up. The animals are all very calm and seem oblivious to all the cars going through their home. It almost seems that they stop and pose for pictures along the way. Playing in the pond seems to be a great way to cool off on a warm summer day. You never have to worry about danger here, if you follow the rules.
What a thrill to be driving very slowly down the trail and have a black bear approach your vehicle. Imagine a large black bear looking in the window of your car. Then feel the car rock just a little as he rubs up against the side. It is wise not to feed the animals as the bears will be hunting for more. They may even scratch your car to try and get in, if tempted by food.
Opened in 1972 with just eleven black bears and a couple other animals, the wildlife area is still owned and operated today by children of Doc and Pauline Casey. When the bear cubs are born in January, these are the people that take the cubs from the mother in March and bottle feed them for six to eight weeks. Thus they are gentle animals when left at Bear Country USA. However, some are sold to a local zoo or even a movie studio since they are easily manageable animals. Of course, the Caseys also help raise the young of all the other Rocky Mountain creatures that inhabit the area.
Watching the bears amble alongside your car, the drive moves leisurely. Often it is desirable to stop and watch their antics. A favorite spot is Babyland since here you can actually get out of your vehicle for a closer look at baby animals that have been born right here at the drive-through wildlife park. Cuddly cubs frolic in the pool and climb trees while wolf and coyote pups watch the action.
How many bear cubs can you see in the tree? Climbing trees is something Black Bears enjoy and with their curved claws are able to climb quickly and easily. Sometime they even take an afternoon nap in the branches. The hardest part of the trip may be getting everyone away from the black bear cubs and back into the car.
Enjoyed all the animals, but especially the bears. If you really enjoy seeing bears close-up, this is a great place to take a drive. That little kid in most of us will enjoy the ride.
Bear Country USA is located eight miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota right along Highway 16. Don’t forget to visit Mount Rushmore nearby.