Yellowstone Bear World is turning 25 this year—which means nearly 25 years of breeding bears, tearing infant cubs away from their mothers, forcing vulnerable animals into stressful encounters with humans, and selling bears to other seedy animal exploiters.
Yellowstone Bear World Fuels the Vicious Cycle of Suffering in America’s Cruel Cub-Petting Industry
In nature, black bear cubs stay with their mothers for up to two years, but Yellowstone Bear World routinely separates cubs from their mothers when they’re only weeks old—and, in some cases, before they can walk or even see. This premature maternal separation threatens the long-term development of every cub born there, and this act only serves to allow this greedy tourist trap to make money off these sentient beings in lucrative public encounters—such as photo ops and bottle-feeding interactions—that cause them even more distress.
According to public records, Yellowstone Bear World has taken at least 168 baby bears from their mothers since 2011. Many of the facility’s bears have ended up in the hands of convicted wildlife traffickers, Hollywood animal wranglers, or other shady roadside zoos—and some may even have been sent to slaughter. The roadside zoo’s 25-year-long scheme of exploiting animals is nothing to celebrate—so instead, learn about 25 bears who suffered at the hands of this notorious operation.
25 Bears Who Represent Decades of Suffering at Yellowstone Bear World
‘Quiet Little Matter’
Within a month of Bear World’s opening in 1998, nearby residents sent a letter to Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) stating that “there is the quiet little matter of the Kodiak bear [who] killed one of the smaller black bears sometime during the week of June 29 [through] July 3.” The worried neighbors continued, “This has been ke[pt] quiet and swept under the carpet so that no one will know.”
According to veterinary reports on file at IDFG, a black bear named Tuffy was “found dead in [a] horse trailer” on June 28, 1999, after sustaining “fight wounds.” Tuffy’s diagnosis was heart failure, and the bear was one of two whose 1999 deaths were described by IDFG as a “questionable situation,” indicating there “may be some management concerns.”
Coco, a brown bear, endured years of exploitation at the facility, where she was used for breeding and where employees reportedly tranquilized her so that they could steal her weeks-old cubs. In 1999, she attacked an employee, who required hospitalization.
Brutus was reportedly only 2 weeks old in 2002 when staff separated him from his mother, Coco. Years later, Casey Anderson—a former employee at the facility who went on to become a notorious animal wrangler—published the book The Story of Brutus, which described how Brutus had been taken away from his mom, stating that the cub was “pinned beneath the weight of his tranquilized 400-pound mother.”
Anderson “adopted” Brutus and continued to exploit him in film and television appearances. In one such case, Anderson fed him beer on an MTV reality show. After enduring a lifetime of exploitation, Brutus died in 2021 at 19 years of age.
A grizzly bear named Tank was born at the roadside zoo and ended up in the dangerous hands of Troy Hyde, who was caught trafficking Tank and other animals in the summer of 2000. Hyde was a Hollywood animal wrangler and the owner of Animals of Montana—a closed-down roadside menagerie that supplied animals for films and advertisements. In 2021, the state of Montana permanently revoked Hyde’s permit to exhibit animals after he was found to have committed 22 violations of state wildlife laws.
In 2003, Bear World sent a brown bear cub named Rocky to Predators in Action—a shady business run by Randy Miller that supplied animals to the entertainment industry. Miller forced Rocky to perform in commercials and films for years until 2008, when the bear killed a man during an ad shoot. Following the incident, Rocky spent years locked in a cage.
In 2022, Rocky was rescued and sent to a reputable sanctuary, where he finally has space to roam and forage and will receive the care he needs. He’s the only bear born at Bear World who’s known to have been sent to a legitimate sanctuary.
‘Black Bear Cub’
In 2009, the facility reportedly shipped a lone 5-month-old black bear on a cross-country flight to Santa’s Land Fun Park & Zoo—a North Carolina roadside zoo that PETA’s expert investigators ranked “among the worst” they had ever encountered. Investigators observed distressed, hungry bears in desolate concrete pits or cramped cages in which the animals constantly paced and walked in endless circles. It’s unknown whether the cub remained there—but if he did, he likely suffered in the miserable conditions that PETA investigators documented.
In 2015, an unnamed “one male” was one of two black bear cubs whom Yellowstone Bear World sent to Bear Country USA—a roadside zoo and bear-breeding operation which previously pleaded guilty to trafficking grizzly bears. Two of the facility’s then-owners also pleaded guilty to illegally selling bear gall bladders.
Since 2012, Yellowstone Bear World has sent at least 96 bears to Gregg Woody, an animal broker known to have sent dozens of bears to slaughter. These bears included Chief, a 3-year-old black bear sent to him in 2018. According to public records, Chief is one of at least 23 bears Bear World sent to Woody after they became too old and big to continue to be exploited for lucrative public encounters. Not one of these bears was older than 4 years old, and it’s unknown what became of them after ending up with Woody.
Fun Fact Friday time! A lot of people that come visit see the cubs stand up (like Chief here) and think that we trained…
In 2015, G.W. Zoo—a closed-down roadside zoo then owned by Tiger King villain “Joe Exotic” and subsequently taken over by the equally infamous Jeff Lowe—acquired a black bear named Eve from Woody. According to available records, Eve may have been one of nine cubs Woody acquired from Yellowstone Bear World just two months prior. In 2020, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector found that Eve was underweight, was highly agitated, and apparently hadn’t been provided with adequate veterinary care.
Bear World exploited Tigger for breeding for years. These misdeeds included taking her cubs from her to use them in public interactions or to ship them off to other roadside zoos. In 2022, a supervisor told a PETA investigator that Tigger, then 26 years old, was “dragging her body … across the road.” Despite the bear’s obvious suffering, a veterinarian apparently wasn’t called to provide her with care.
Sierra experienced the same nightmare that many mother bears at the facility endure when the facility ripped her 6-week-old baby away from her in 2016 and sent the cub to the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, which has a long history of animal abuse and neglect.
Visitors observed an adult male brown bear named Tom during a tour of Bear World in 2022. A staff member admitted that Tom is relegated to one side of an enclosure because his exhibit mate, Boo Boo, has “had enough of [him].” Concerned visitors have routinely observed either Tom or Boo Boo pacing in the enclosure, where they’ve worn down barren paths along the perimeter.
Bear World only provides Ted with a single metal slab—which he must share with his enclosure mate, Bert—for shade during the sweltering summer months.
According to public records, Gregg Woody illegally bought Bosco from the facility in 2017 while his USDA license was suspended. Woody then sent Bosco to West Coast Game Park Safari, a roadside zoo in Oregon that exploited him in stressful public interactions until he was no longer profitable. Available records indicate West Coast Game Park sent the bear, who was then 3 years old, back to Woody in Illinois in 2020. The bear’s fate is currently unknown.
In 2017, Woody illegally bought Sophie from Bear World before sending her to a notorious roadside hellhole, Oswald’s Bear Ranch. Confined to a concrete-floored cage, she was observed exhibiting signs of severe psychological distress, including pacing and crying out. In 2019, Sophie escaped from Oswald’s, only to be shot dead three days later.
Bear World crams adult black bears into a single enclosed area, where they can’t get away from one another, which has reportedly led to aggression, injuries, and even deaths. In 2022, a supervisor told a PETA investigator that Little Boy and another bear “get a little rough with each other.” Due to an injury to his front paw, Little Boy has had trouble walking. In 2021, a visitor observed him walking on only three legs.
After Bear World took a weeks-old Buster from his mother in 2020, available records indicate he was then shuffled from dealer to dealer until he ended up at a Wisconsin roadside zoo called Shalom Wildlife Zoo a couple of weeks later. Confined to a small cage, Buster has been seen exhibiting signs of severe psychological distress, including pacing and tossing his head along the perimeter of the cage.
In 2021, Bear World shipped Hildie alone across the country to Clark’s Bears, a tourist trap that forces her to perform degrading stunts in circus-like shows, which involve scooters, basketballs, and a swing.
Hildie and Darla are hoping to see you this weekend!
Cub-petting, fueled by Yellowstone Bear World, is extremely stressful to weeks-old cubs who should still be with their mothers. An unnamed baby bear born there was transported more than 2,000 miles between multiple shady animal exploiters. She died soon after arriving at Oswald’s Bear Ranch, before she was even given a name. A Michigan state investigation simply referred to her as “Pink String” because of a pink string she was wearing when Oswald’s purchased her.
During a PETA investigation in 2022, a yearling named Henry escaped from his enclosure and was chased by an adult black bear named Finn, putting both bears at risk of injury. A supervisor recounted instructing an inexperienced employee who was assisting with the situation to carry a stick and “beat anything that comes in your way.”
PETA’s 2022 investigation into Yellowstone Bear World revealed that bears’ pain often seemed to be ignored or dismissed. After one bear cub, Bean, fractured his leg and was limping, a supervisor told workers to withhold his prescription pain medication because, in her view, he wasn’t acting like an injured animal.
As a supervisor told a PETA investigator, Angus had somehow “peeled the skin off” his back. At no point after being informed of this issue did the investigator ever see or hear that the facility contacted a veterinarian concerning the bear’s condition.
After a car ran over a bear’s paw in 2022, federal authorities visited Bear World to investigate the incident. Staff apparently didn’t know which bear had been run over and seemingly chose Reggie at random for the veterinarian to examine. An employee recounted the incident to a PETA investigator, saying, “We just had to have the vet come out and look at somebody, and we decided it should be Reggie. We were stuck between Elliott, Reggie, and Tubbs. We went with Reggie because he’s already known to be a naughty bear.”
“11” is one of two unnamed, numbered cubs the roadside zoo sent to Hollywood animal wrangler Scott Handley in 2023. Handley recently forced a chained bear to participate in a stunt in a Jackass movie.
Take Action for Cubs at Yellowstone Bear World
These 25 bears are only some of the countless animals who have suffered at the hands of Yellowstone Bear World. Take action below to tell Yellowstone Bear World to stop breeding bears and to end cub photo ops and other cruel public encounters: