Newborn Cubs Prompt PETA Call for Probe of Shoddy Roadside Zoo Caught Using Bottle Rockets on Bears

For Immediate Release:
January 4, 2024

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Rapid City, S.D.

It’s been nearly six months since a PETA investigation exposed workers at Bear Country U.S.A. admitting to tormenting mother bears and their newborn cubs with fireworks, shotguns, and chainsaws—and birthing season is rapidly approaching for the bears held there. Since this roadside zoo takes cubs away from their mothers each year to be put on display, PETA fired off a letter today to Pennington County Sheriff Brian Mueller, urging him to investigate and pursue charges before another generation of vulnerable cubs is exploited.

Following PETA’s investigation between March and July 2023, the facility was cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for causing “trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort” to the bears. The agency has also cited Bear Country U.S.A. for allowing lynx to repeatedly escape from an enclosure.

PETA documented workers admitting to throwing fireworks into the den to scare mother bears away from protecting their infant cubs—taken from them at no more than 8 weeks old—and running chainsaws to mask the sound of the cubs’ anguished cries as they’re snatched away. The infant cubs were kept in small cardboard boxes and then put on display. Staff were also instructed to kick growing cubs and to “pinch their nose as hard as you f***ing can” if they bit.

baby bears are kept in cardboard boxes after being separated from their mothers at bear country usa

Bear cubs taken from their mothers at just 2 months old were kept in cardboard boxes for weeks. Credit: PETA

“Babies violently ripped from their mothers and sick animals languishing in pain were shown to be business as usual at Bear Country U.S.A.,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler. “PETA is urging the Pennington Country sheriff to review the overwhelming evidence of mistreatment and neglect and hold the facility accountable before more animals suffer. We are deeply concerned for the welfare of the new cubs and their mothers.”

The investigation also revealed that animals at the roadside zoo were denied timely veterinary care. A thin 17-year-old red fox named Mama was observed missing significant amounts of hair and showing obvious signs of pain. When workers finally had her evaluated by a veterinarian nearly 11 weeks after PETA’s investigator raised concerns, she was euthanized. A necropsy revealed that she had been suffering from widespread cancer.

mama the red fox was found to have cancer after suffering at bear country usa

Mama, a red fox held at Bear Country U.S.A., was euthanized after being denied veterinary treatment for months despite obvious ailments. Credit: PETA

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, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.

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