If a black bear makes an appearance near you in the wild, chances are you’re more terrified than enchanted, but Bear Country U.S.A allows you to experience these kiss-ass beasts in a safe and fun environment. Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Bear Country USA has more black bears than any other privately-owned place in the world, and it’s a perfect detour on your way to Mount Rushmore… Heck, you don’t even have to get out of the car.
About Bear Country USA:
Nestled over 200 acres amidst towering pines and along rolling meadows just eight miles south of Rapid City, Bear Country U.S.A. offers visitors intimate views of most North American mammals. Visitors take a leisurely three-mile drive through several enclosures and encounter black bear, elk, reindeer, deer, cougars, bobcats, rocky mountain goats, bighorn sheep, dall sheep, pronghorn and buffalo.
At this “the home of the largest collection of privately owned black bear in the world”, Bear Country U.S.A. guests are guaranteed to see more than they bargained for. From the comfort of their own car, visitors watch as these clowns of nature frolic in a pool, climb trees and amble across the road in front of their vehicle.
As they said, Bear Country USA is a drive-through experience. You simply pay the fees at the gate, roll your windows up, and enjoy the wildlife around you. Speaking of which, there’s plenty to see… Bear Country USA boasts 20 species of different mammals.
Just how did this crazy place get started?
It happened way back in August of 1972 when Dr. Dennis Casey and his wife Pauline collected 11 black bear, a cougar, a wolf, a bull elk, and 3 buffalo. Just like that, Bear Country USA was born. Today, Pauline and her children still operate the park and have expanded it to have more than 200 black bear in addition to all the other species mentioned above.
Back in the 70s, there weren’t any zoos near Rapid City, so the Caseys wanted to bring the joy of wildlife to the area, and along the way they stumbled into a thriving business venture as tourists approaching Mount Rushmore found Bear Country USA an easy and enjoyable pit stop.
Over time, the number of animals kept growing and growing, and now their “Babyland” attraction features many of their bear cubs along with several other baby animals like timber wolves, bobcats, and mountain lions.
Although most of the experience is from your car, the new Wildlife Center does allow you to get out of the car and get up close to many of the smaller and younger animals in the park.
The Caseys also pride themselves in their conservation efforts. From the Caseys:
Bear Country USA uses rotational grazing programs with hoof stock and developed their own pasture grass mix which combines drought tolerant native species of grasses including brome, crested wheat grasses, and buffalo grass. Water from ponds are used to irrigate grazing areas and shelter belts. Shelter belts are planted with drought tolerant native shrubs and trees which require little water and feed song birds through the winter while providing wind break and shade. Chickens and peafowl free-range to control ticks –eggs from chickens are used as animal enrichment in Babyland.
If you’re planning a trip to Mount Rushmore and want to see some wildlife in a safe environment, Bear Country U.S.A is the place for you.