Grizzly Charges Photo-Taking Tourist. Are Roadside Zoos Making People Thoughtless?

Published by Katherine Sullivan.
4 min read

Update: May 28, 2021

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park in Montana charged a tourist who got way too close, and the incident was caught on camera:

The tourist can be seen holding a phone and seemingly trying to get close to the bear in order to snap a photo—a reckless act that’s reportedly caused Yellowstone National Park officials to launch an investigation. But are this tourist and the other reckless ones below the only ones to blame for such thoughtlessness? No, there’s another culprit: Roadside zoos such as Oswald’s Bear Ranch. At the shoddy Michigan facility, customers can pay to take photos with bear cubs—ones like Sophie, who was shot dead when she was just 2 years old after she scaled an Oswald’s Bear Ranch fence and escaped. No wonder humans act like this 👆 and this 👇—tourist traps like Oswald’s are trapping tourists into thinking that approaching dangerous wild animals is acceptable.

Don’t be the fool Oswald’s Bear Ranch wants to program you to be: Leave animals in peace, and leave roadside zoos off your itinerary.

Keep scrolling to learn how, with just a few clicks and taps, you can make a huge difference for bears exploited for entertainment.

Update: July 15, 2019

On Saturday, a man was caught on camera harassing three black bear cubs at Cades Cove in the Tennessee portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The cubs’ protective mother charged the foolish tourist. Take a look:

The momma bear, who was defending her cubs, came within a foot or so of the man.

“I honestly thought we were going to sit there and just watch him get mauled,” onlooker Paige Marple told 10News. “I wasn’t going to interfere. You can’t stop stupidity.”

According to Marple, other witnesses yelled at the unidentified man, urging him to back off.

WBIR Channel 10 shared the encounter on Facebook …

"I honestly thought me and everybody else parked in that parking lot were about to be traumatized for the rest of our…

Posted by WBIR Channel 10 on Saturday, July 13, 2019

… and folks weren’t pleased. “I hope they don’t put the bear down because of this man,” Facebook user Carla Lewis commented. “I hope he was charged—this is so horrible,” wrote Katie Jones, another Facebook user.

It’s unknown if local law enforcement will investigate or what (if anything) will happen to the four bears. Just last month, a young black bear was shot and killed in Oregon after Henry Hagg Lake Park tourists similarly refused to keep their distance—the bear became too “habituated to the park,” according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Keep reading to learn why it’s so important to leave animals in peace and how you can help bears like these.

Originally posted on June 21, 2019:

No one should die for “likes,” but that didn’t stop countless selfish people from subjecting a beautiful young black bear to selfies—ignoring Washington County Sheriff’s Office’s warnings to “stay away“—just so that they could look “cool” on social media.

The bear, who was living near Henry Hagg Lake Park in northwestern Oregon and believed to be between 2 and 3 years old, was shot and killed last week—almost exactly a week prior to National Selfie Day—by wildlife officials after he became too “habituated to the park,” according to a statement released by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

“Law enforcement became aware of interactions between the bear and humans after some individuals took ‘selfie’ photographs of themselves and the bear and posted them on social media,” read the statement.

Authorities initially believed that they could coax the young bear “to go back into the woods.” They were even successful, according to reports. But people continued to feed the bear.

“Over the past week, officers were called to the same area several times where individuals had left food for the animal,” the ODFW noted.

Wildlife officials may have shot and killed the bear, but the selfie-obsessed people who refused to leave this poor animal alone are also responsible for his death. If a wild animal is close enough for a selfie, it means something is wrong, not that it’s time to pull out your front-facing camera.

Why Are Humans Like This?

Even after officials warned against going near this bear, humans still did it—and for selfies, no less. At first, I wondered why—why would people think it’s OK to approach a bear for a photo op? But then it dawned on me that, thanks to roadside zoos and other animal-exploiting businesses, we’re practically programmed to think this kind of conduct is acceptable. Take Oswald’s Bear Ranch, for example. The Newberry, Michigan, roadside zoo makes a profit by encouraging people to take photos with bear cubs. One such bear, 2-year-old Sophie, was shot and killed just this past April after she had scaled one of the facility’s fences and escaped.

I’m really sorry this happened. She really was a nice little bear, but things happen. I have 39 bears at this facility,” Oswald’s Bear Ranch owner Dean Oswald reportedly said. But Sophie wasn’t the first to die prematurely at Oswald’s. Others have been trapped in a collapsed den, suffered a “drug overdose,” and suddenly died from unknown or undisclosed causes. Half a dozen more have been slaughtered—as Oswald’s told a state inspector in 2017, a “mean” bear should be “made into jerky.”

It’s no wonder some people are so cavalier about interacting with animals in nature. But we need to do better—for animals like the bear cub who was killed and for those who languish at roadside zoos like Oswald’s Bear Ranch. We’ve. Got. To. Do. Better.

Remember: Leave animals in peace and take pictures of them from a safe distance.

It may be too late for this Oregonian black bear and for Sophie, but we can still help many others like them. Click below to speak up for the cubs suffering for photo ops at Oswald’s Bear Ranch:

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