Exposé: Chainsaws, Bottle Rockets Used to Separate Mother Bears From Screaming Cubs at Roadside Zoo

Staff Ordered to Kick Cubs, Hide Policies From Public; PETA Files Complaints With Federal, Local Authorities

For Immediate Release:
July 31, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Rapid City, S.D.

Scaring mother bears out of their dens with bottle rockets while standing by with shotguns and running chainsaws “so the mothers can’t hear the babies screaming”—that’s how workers at Bear Country U.S.A. stole cubs from their mothers before putting them on display at the roadside zoo, as revealed in footage from a new PETA undercover investigation. Workers, one of whom described the process as “stealing children and taking them to a white van” and “a little bit bad on the morals,” were warned not to discuss it with customers, as a supervisor instructed in an e-mail, “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, cubs stay with their mothers for at least 16 months—but PETA’s exposé reveals that Bear Country U.S.A. forcibly separated them when they’re no more than 8 weeks old and kept them in cardboard boxes. The cubs were exhibited to a group of children, even though the supervisor acknowledged that the animals were “scared.” Weeks later, the 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. A senior worker noted that “the longer you hold these guys, the more of a d**k they’re going to be as they grow.”

Workers at Bear Country U.S.A. also used firecrackers to separate 4-week-old wolf pups from their mothers so that they, too, could be displayed to the public, and adult animals at the roadside zoo were denied adequate veterinary care, including a thin 17-year-old fox named Mama who appeared to be in pain and was missing an extensive amount of fur. When the supervisor finally sought care for her nearly 11 weeks after PETA’s investigator raised concerns, a veterinarian euthanized her and found that she had widespread cancer.

“Screaming cubs and mourning mothers are Bear Country U.S.A.’s bread and butter,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler. “Generation after generation of bear families are torn apart by the sordid roadside zoo industry, and PETA urges everyone to stay away from any business that uses vulnerable baby animals as props.”

Workers were also injured at the roadside zoo. PETA’s investigator was bitten and scratched on the arms, one bear “rip[ped] out a chunk” of a worker’s leg, another swatted at and lacerated the worker’s heel, and a cub “beat the s*** out of” a third worker’s face. That worker said animal bites are “something you … get used to.”

Accordingly, PETA has submitted evidence to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration seeking investigations into apparent violations of laws regarding animal welfare, neglect, endangered species, and worker safety.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.