Photographs and article by: Dawn Emerson                                                    August 2008
It seems only natural when given an opportunity,
that anyone who loves bears would find their way
to "Bear Country."

"Bear Country" is a tourist attraction located just south of Rapid City, South Dakota. The park is viewed by driving your vehicle through, with eager anticipation that you'll catch a glimpse of the many animals that make their home there.


As you enter the park, the first animals you may see are the elk. With large horn racks, they were still barely visible above the tall grasses that have grown quite tall during this particularly rainy spring, this year in Rapid City.

As the road curved, with traffic slowing to allow tourists an opportunity to seek, find and then photograph the animals, the next animals to be seen were the reindeer. Warmer temperatures in the mid day had most of the animals in a mood to nap, but again, the horns were still visible above the grasses where they lay resting.


The arctic wolves were much better concealed in the grasses as they too, took advantage of the cool ground, to snooze.

The game is kept separated by wire fencing and metal tracks in order to keep the animals from cohabitation too closely or put them in danger.

We keep our eyes alert to any type of movement and took cues from cars we were following, as to where we need to look. Sitting majestically in the grasses, a big horn sheep gives us a picture-perfect moment.


Past the big horn and Dall sheep the Rocky Mountain goats were more "photograph accessible." A nanny goat and her kid cross the road, appearing just as curious about us as we were of them. With thousands of visitors each year, they weren't shy about being photographed or worried about the traffic.

Rocky Mt. Goat & Kid

As we crossed over the electric grating on the road, we entered into true bear country. The day’s sun had caused most to move slowly in search of cooler spots to rest through the day. It feels so amazing to see these wonderful creatures that we cherish in the teddy bear industry, just yards from our reach. It's easy to see why we love them so much.

Long Horn

Rocky Mt. Goat


Black Bears

The park has over 100 black bears, making it the world's largest privately owned collection. Of course, many are bred there every year, enlarging the collection annually. Black bears oddly, does not mean that they are all black. Many of the bears are black, while others can be a cinnamon color, and sometimes blonde.

We continued to drive through the park, catching glimpses of the Mountain Lions and Timber Wolves.


Timber Wolf

Brown & White Buffalo

Next on the tour were the buffalos. While they are plentiful throughout places such as Custer Park in South Dakota, Bear Country has one of particular interest; a white buffalo.

Considered a sacred sign by many of the Native American religions, it was a beautiful and unexpected sight to behold.

Upon leaving the buffalo we exited our car and made our way to the housed animal area and the baby animal play place.


First on the list to see was a Grizzly bear. Luckily, he felt like doing a little dance; which was a wonderful and fun to watch. I can only assume that because Grizzly's are considered the most aggressive bears, they were not allowed to roam free like the black bears. But doing his little dance, he didn't seem too aggressive.

Grizzly Bear

We made our way around the walkway and passed badgers resting comfortably, foxes raccoons, and precious wolf cubs.




In a distance, the we could see the thing we had most wanted to see...the baby bear cubs.

Bear Cubs

The "play pen" was full of them; many resting while others nibbled for bugs or hoped desperately to find milk from their neighbor’s ears. Sadly, all the suckling on ears produced no milk but cries from the resting cubs as if they were saying, "I'm trying to sleep. Leave me alone."

Wolf Cubs


Bear Playpen

Hanging Out

One particularly clever cub found relief from the mob by resting high in the tree top. Unlike grizzly bears, black bears are very effective climbers. And this proved to be the best way to get some rest while the others tried to sleep through the hunger of others.

It's a truly heartwarming event when you can see such cute and lovely little animals playing with each other and close enough to almost touch. If you get a chance to travel to South Dakota too, take the time to see
Bear Country, and what all the fuss is about. You'll be glad you did and perhaps be inspired to add more teddy bears to your own collection. After all, teddy bears are there to cuddle and don't require feeding. They just require your love.


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