Bear Country USA is one of the more unique and exciting, as well as educational, travel destinations in South Dakota. Guests can drive through in a car and see over 20 different species of animals in their natural habitat, all while learning about their conservation programs and little facts about each one.
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Opened in August of 1972, the park was the brainchild of Dr. Dennis Casey (affectionately known as “Doc”) and Pauline, his wife. Started with 11 black bears, one wolf, one cougar, an elk, and three buffalo, the park has since ballooned to include over 200 black bears and many other animals on over 250 acres of land. The majority of the animals have been born in captivity, but all efforts have been made to maintain as close to a wild experience for them as possible. It is currently considered the biggest collection of black bears owned privately.
Despite its name, Bear Country offers so much more to see and do than just bears. The open season runs from April through November, although they are occasionally closed during that time as well. Guests are strongly encouraged to check the website prior to a planned visit to verify that they are indeed open.
For the private vehicular tours of the park, the rates vary depending on age level, with a discount provided for seniors, children, and military. There is also a maximum cost per vehicle. Children ages four and under are admitted free. They also offer season passes for local guests who plan on visiting more than once - it ends up paying for itself in the long run!
There are also group tour rates available. A group is defined as an identifiable and designated group of 15 people or more. Children under the age of five are admitted free. If available, “step on” guides can be added without additional charge as long as there is 24-hour notice of desire to do so. Tours take around two hours.
Animals on site:
- Arctic wolf
- Bighorn sheep
- Black Bear
- Canadian Lynx
- Grizzly Bear
- Mountain Lion
- Red Fox
- River Otter
- Rocky Mountain Goat
- Striped Skunk
- Timber Wolf
Other things to do while on site include making sure to catch all of the daily activities that happen in the wildlife walk part of the park. The majority of the time these activities are offered as a substitution for days when the wildlife doesn’t feel like hanging out with the general public, but they can also be enjoyed solo as they are included with admission to the park.
- Download and print off an activity page for children to color. There are available on the website.
- Talk to the resident keepers about the animals that live at the park and learn interesting facts about them, as well as watching demonstrations, talks, and other informative programs.
- Children can get temporary tattoos!
- Take a picture with the park mascot!
- Make use of the free strollers and stroll around the wildlife walk.
Visiting the park with a classroom full of students is the perfect way to get them to literally interact with the subjects they have been studying. Great for homeschooled children as well as both private and public schools, the website offers a huge variety of activity pages for download both before and after a visit (with subjects like what bears eat, an animal behavior BINGO game, and a fun word find activity) as well as summer camps meant to help students develop that connection with nature that is so imperative to help children understand the importance of conservation and preservation. They also help students be able to identify animal habitats, signs of animal life, and overall just to have fun while learning! Price depends on the activity and the number of students, so it is required for teachers to contact the park prior to a visit for additional information and reservations.
Dining and Shopping
Stop by the Cub Grub (a small grill located on the grounds for a quick snack, some cotton candy, or just a cold drink (especially on the hot days). It is available for the majority of the season (with the exception of occasional days during both the early and the late parts of the season). Also make sure to visit the gift shop for a selection of apparel (hoodies, t-shirts, etc), blankets, toys, tote bags, and more! All purchases go back into helping Bear Country USA provide for the animals located there.
Bear Country USA, 13820 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702, Phone: 605-343-2290