A PETA undercover investigator at Bear Country U.S.A., a South Dakota drive-through tourist trap, collected evidence – including damning video – showing what the roadside zoo never tells the public: In a disgusting display of violence, it tore still-nursing bear cubs away from their mothers by using bottle rockets and chainsaws to scare the mothers into backing away so that staff could snatch their offspring!
Mother bears will fight to the death to protect their little ones, so Bear Country U.S.A. staff tossed explosive bottle rockets – and jammed a huge fiberglass pole – into the dens to scare them out. They grabbed the cubs in the chaos and then revved chainsaws so the mothers couldn’t hear their kidnapped newborns screaming in terror. Other staffers stood at the ready with shotguns as the traumatized cubs were stuffed into a van. Their fate? To become living props to entice paying customers through the roadside zoo’s doors.
‘Pinch Their Nose as Hard as You F***ing Can’
One Bear Country U.S.A. staffer casually described what was being done to the bears as “stealing children” and “a little bit bad on the morals.” Employees were warned not to discuss any of this with customers, as shown in this e-mail from a supervisor:
Refrain from going into … detail that could be offensive to the public. … [G]uests do not need to know the entirety of the truth.
In nature, bear cubs and their mothers play, nest, sleep, eat, and climb together for nearly two years. Mothers teach their little ones how to be bears and how to develop confidence and eventually become self-sufficient. But none of that occurs at Bear Country U.S.A., where workers kept cubs in cardboard boxes for weeks. Multiple cubs were reluctant to eat – and they cried, bit, scratched, and struggled when they were held.
Staff had no respect for the animals, who instinctively responded defensively when they were frightened and couldn’t flee. A supervisor instructed PETA’s investigator to “kick [the cubs] down” and to “pinch their nose as hard as you f***ing can” if they bit.
Not only do the cubs experience emotional and psychological harm when they’re taken from their mothers, constant exposure to and handling by humans also puts their physical health at risk. Their immune systems aren’t developed and they’re susceptible to illnesses like the common cold or the flu.
“She’s probably going to be dying soon.”
– A Bear Country staff member referring to Mama, a 17-year-old fox wracked with cancer but denied veterinary care
Staff Used Firecrackers to Grab Wolf Pups
Bears aren’t the only animals suffering at Bear Country U.S.A. Staff also used firecrackers to separate 4-week-old wolf pups from their mothers so that they, too – denied their mothers’ love and teaching – could become profitable toys for the public to gawk at.
Many animals were deprived of adequate veterinary care, including a 17-year-old fox named Mama who was thin, appeared to be in pain, and was missing much of her fur. PETA’s investigator alerted a supervisor to Mama’s condition, but the fox was left to languish for nearly 11 weeks. When the supervisor finally sought care for her, a veterinarian euthanized her and found that she had been suffering from widespread cancer.
A bored and lonely pine marten named Pablo – held in a tiny, barren enclosure – tossed his head and paced. A worker dismissed these distressing stereotypic behaviors.
Locals gave ailing horses to Bear Country U.S.A., and staff killed and butchered them and then fed their remains to other animals. PETA’s investigator saw a worker shoot one horse three times.
After PETA alerted the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to several suspected violations of federal animal welfare law, the agency cited Bear Country U.S.A. for causing “trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort” to bears. Based on our evidence, the agency has also cited Bear Country U.S.A. for allowing lynx to repeatedly escape from an enclosure. PETA is urging the USDA to prevent this abusive facility from prematurely separating cubs and pups from their mothers.
PETA has rescued 80 bears from sleazy roadside zoos, backyard menageries, and traveling acts. Dillan – who was kept for years in a small, concrete-floored pen – suffered from painfully diseased teeth and morbid obesity and spent his days rocking obsessively. He was rescued following intense pressure from PETA. Today, he’s thriving at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a lush refuge in Colorado.
Be Part of It!
Share this information with everyone you know – and never visit any roadside zoo. Every ticket to one of these facilities tears families apart. Learn more ways to help here.