That time I saw a baby black bear run up a tree.


I've already recapped three parts of our South Dakota adventure: Carhenge, our cabin, Crazy Horse/Mount Rushmore. We stayed in Keystone Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, which meant we really only had two full days in South Dakota to pack in everything we wanted to do. I can't believe I thought we would be bored! South Dakota, you guys. It's for real.

Saturday was when we visited Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore. On Sunday, we got to do a few fun things, and one of those was visit Bear Country USA.

Think, safari except with bears and reindeer instead of giraffes and lions (or whatever kinds of animals they have in safaris). It's a two-mile loop that you drive, and you're given strict instructions to stay in your car lest you get mauled by black bears or gored by an elk. They used all caps and bold and lots of exclamation points on the flier they gave us, so we were pretty sure they were serious. That didn't stop us from rolling down our windows. I like to live on the edge. Don't tell.

Most of the animals didn't have actual pens, so they were free to just roam about. It was really cool to see animals up close like that, the black bears especially. They were right up next to our car! Then they'd walk across the road, and we would have to stop and wait. Kind of like you have to do for geese sometimes, except it's not really same at all. 

Because bears.
^^^ The whole time we waited for this bear to cross the road, I was shouting, "LOOK! IT'S WALKING!" I'm easily amused by animals performing regular functions such as walking. This is either a really good or really bad thing for my future children. Olympic gold medals in walking. Just you wait.

There weren't just bears in Bear Country USA. There were elk, reindeer, big horn sheep, and buffalo (which, being from Oklahoma, we weren't so impressed by).

After the drive was over, we parked, and there was a small area that was more like an actual zoo. There were only a few types of animals, like this little guy below. And they had skunks, which I thought was weird slash terrifying.


Then there was a huge pen full of baby black bears!

I think we stood and watched them for at least fifteen minutes. They were so fun to watch. There was one in particular that was an instigator. He (she?) was running around jumping on all the other bears. A lot of them were just lying around, and the one bear would come and jump on one or start wrestling with one until both got up and started chasing each other, and then two or three would get involved and they'd all chase each other. It was hilarious! I wish I had a video of it.

^^^ We were cracking up at this one. It's like he's taking a leisurely bath or something.

^^^One of them climbed a tree! Coolest thing ever. Have you ever seen a bear climb a tree? The little guy just ran up that thing!

Overall travel recommendation? If you ever find yourself in South Dakota, take a trip to Bear Country USA. I should warn you, however, that it was $16/person, which is definitely pricy. I mean, if you take a family there, it will add up. But it was a unique, fun thing to do, and honestly it was worth it just to see the baby bear run up that tree.

I will conclude now with one of the only pictures I got of Jordan the whole time we were there. Dude does not let me take pictures of him!
^^^See what I have to deal with? That guy.
-Have you ever seen a bear climb a tree?
-Have you ever been to a drive-through zoo thing like this?
-Do you have a favorite zoo animal? I didn't think I had a favorite, but after this I'd say baby black bears! I wanted to take one home.

Want more South Dakota?
1) Trip overview (the route we drove + other random pictures)
2) Carhenge (awesome tourist attraction on the way there)
3) Our cabin in Keystone
4) Crazy Horse & Mount Rushmore

Unknown said...

I love your excitement over the walking thing (and the way you describe it, of course!). I can only imagine your screams when the bear actually climbed the tree. Your future children will be so proud of themselves when they crawl/walk/talk for the first time. They'll have a real cheerleader of a mom. :)

Gorgeous pictures, by the way! I have a lot of pictures of Arnaud's back too, but I can't complain because I'm exactly the same. I hate having my picture taken. :)

Bethany Carson said...

Very neat photos!! We have a reindeer park near us, but I don't think I've ever seen one with that big of antlers!
I've never seen a bear climb a tree! The photos of the bear cubs made me smile; sure looks like they are enjoying life! Never heard of a drive-thru zoo before!

julie Wunder said...

I've never seen a bear climb up a tree! So cute.
There is a drive through zoo north of Charlotte that I have been too. I'm a sucker for a good zoo.

Courtney Rose said...

These photos are great! I actually have a pretty terrifying story regarding a black bear, however it is probably too long for a comment! Ha! Perhaps you have inspired me to share on my blog one of these days.

The Girl who Loved to Write said...

Ahh so much cute in one post!

Pamela said...

awww preciousss!

Erin LFF said...

AHHH! I went here as a kid, probably age 8 or 9 and this post just brought back so many awesome memories. I remember a bear laid down in the road while we were driving through and he just stayed there and stared at our car for awhile before it leisurely got up again! I loved it! :)

Miss Nutralicious said...

The black and white picture of the bear walking across the road is AWESOME! I have never been to a drive-through zoo, and I have never seen a bear climb a tree. I think my favorite zoo animal is an elephant, but I'm not even 100% certain.

Basically, I have no life experiences that relate to anything in this post. So, thank you for exposing me to new things and keeping me well informed! :) Bear Country USA looks fun!

Anonymous said...

I visited a game reserve in Africa when I was little, but I didn't realize there were similar experiences here in the states. Thanks for sharing--enjoyed your fun photographs!

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

That little black bear climbing up that tree looks like he could just take a jump and land on the other side of the fence!

I had no idea SD had such fun things to do! I'm glad you got to see lots of bears. Favorite zoo animal??? How is one supposed to decide? I like the Lions because they are just like a big kitty cat (but meaner) and I like it when the monkeys all play and act crazy.

Brittany said...

Okay, so now I desperately want to go there. Bears are the absolute cutest and I would freak out (with excitement) if they were crossing the road in front of my car. Also, that raccoon is not little, by any means. What a cute chunker.

Leslie Lukens Martin said...

Your pictures are fabulous! I would have been obsessed with the baby bears too! Based on the needles (???) left on that tree, it looks like the baby bears do a lot of tree climbing!

Jenn @ Optimization Actually said...

My sisters and I went to Yellowstone over the summer and despite all the warnings about bears, never caught a glimpse of one. It would be awesome to see baby bears (especially climbing trees!)!!!

Jenn @ Optimization Actually said...

Edit: Yosemite. I'm having problems with this.

Katie said...

we went to a drive through zoo and an ostrich poked in our window and attacked my dad. it was hilarious to us as kids but he was terrified. we have the funniest picture of it's head in our car!

Allison said...

This look awesome! Reindeer! And that baby bear is like "watch me everyone!" Haha.

Sarah @ Sometimes Photojenik said...

Loved all these pictures! I will note that down if we ever go- it looks super fun though!! I have seen a bear climb a tree, we actually see (saw?) them a lot growing up in our little mountain town. And my favorite zoo animal is a giraffe :-)

Jenna Griffin | Gold & Bloom said...

Oh my goodness, those little bears are so adorable. On the Renew Retreat this weekend, Madison and I were talking on the deck when I spotted a bear crossing the small road in front of us! It was my first wildlife bear sighting and I was so excited. I didn't see it climb a tree, so that's a bummer.

Anyways, I really like the bear that is taking a bath. It's so funny and cute!

Kerry @ Till Then Smile Often said...

So this dispels my who plan of climbing a tree should I see a bear!! Now what!?? A zoo with skunks and raccoons?! Bears when contained are so fascinating to watch.

Kate said...

I am a sucker for watching baby animals. The last time we were in Yellowstone, we found this huge herd (I assume they're called herds) of buffalo (Which I realize are actually bison I just think buffalo sounds so much cooler than bison.) with several babies that were playing. I couldn't even handle it. I took A TON of pictures with my dad's camera. but he dropped the camera the day before, so almost none of the pictures took. I silently cried.I got a few with my little point and shoot, but it just wasn't the same!

The first time I saw a buffalo was in South Dakota at Custer State Park. They were all over the road, and I freaked out. I was so excited. (We don't have buffalo here. Cut me some slack.) My dad was freaking out because he thought they were going to stampede the rental car. One walked right up to the car. I rolled down my window and called him Hal. My dad was not amused, but I mean.. It's so much cooler with the windows down, am I right?! #rebel

Jennifer Prod said...

i saw a bear climb at a tree that the zoo a couple months ago, and let me tell you - it was awesome! it's amazing how the tree is so tiny and the bear is so big and you wonder 'how will this work' and the bear just keeps trekking right up the tree. jon's parents also live in the northwoods of wisconsin, so sometimes we see wild bears -- but never climbing trees :) and as for that reindeer? now on my list of things to see :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. The baby bears. I want one. I wonder what my HOA has to say about baby black bears..... Bear Country looks so trip worthy. Did you read the Bernstein Bears books when you were a kid? That's what Bear Country reminds me of.


Anonymous said...

How do they keep the bears from munching on the other animals?! That would have been a sight to see (I would have cried). I'm totally with you on being easily impressed by simple functions in wild animals. It's not everyday you get to observe nature up close and personal like that and just the fact that they're breathing is kind of exciting.

Susannah said...

Oh my word! How fun to be able to see all these animals!!! When I went to Yellowstone we saw a black bear on the side of the road right near where we were staying in a little cabin and it totally freaked us out!

Food, Booze, & Baggage said...

I love seeing any kind of baby animals...the cutest! I always like the big cats at the zoo. I love all the pictures you got. I would love to do the drive through thing, much different than seeing them in cages.

Victoria said...

Some of my "best" pictures are the ones of people's backsides....WHY can't they just make a normal, happy face?!??! lol! :)

This little place sounds pretty cool! Bears and reindeer have always fascinated me. I don't think I've ever seen a living elk though....I would like to see one of those!

When I go to a zoo zoo, my favorite things are the elephants and the tigers.

I'm glad you guys took the time to go through there! There are some things that you just have to do at least once and game farms are one of them. :)

Rach said...

We took a family trip to Yellowstone when I was a teenager so we did a drive through zoo similar to this one. I didn't get to see a black bear climb a tree, though!! That's amazing!!!

Christina said...

I'm obsessed with this post.

I mean, I need to plan a trip to South Dakota now. In fact, as soon as I finish typing this comment, I'm going to show my husband.

I want to go to this zoo SO BAD. Those baby bears.They look like puppies! Large puppies, but so playful and adorable. Bathing baby bear, won't you be mine??

On our honeymoon, my husband and I went to a wolf preserve in Washington state. One of the best moments of the trip. So incredible seeing so many wolves and learning about them and why they should be saved. At one point, they all started to howl in unison. It was quite beautiful and chilling all at once. The tour guide said you'll never hear a sound like that ever again in the wild as they're so incredibly endangered. Such an eye opening stop on our trip!

Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife said...

If I ever win a trip where I can take like 10 people with me for free you are going to be one because when I say the picture I was like ahhh the beer is walking so cool across the road and then I read what you wrote and I was like damn we are cool people!

The Lady Okie said...

So, your story makes me think of when Jordan and I went to the OKC zoo earlier this year. Every Saturday at noon, the tornado sirens go off just to check and make sure they're all working and stuff. So anyway, we were at the zoo at noon on Saturday right near the coyotes, and they all stared howling at the siren. It was really cool to hear them all at once like that. I bet it would be even better on a wolf preserve! That's cool.

Saxon @ Lets Drink Coffee, Darling said...

Wow, that Reindeer is impressive! I don't think I've ever seen one in real life. The mountain goats are pretty cool too! Goats are just cool.

As for the drive through zoo, we have something similar here in Oklahoma (a little less sophisticated than Bear Country based on your pictures) called Arbuckle Wilderness. You can drive your car through the wilderness or take their trolley, and you can feed the animals too! It sounds like you guys had a really fun trip in South Dakota! Its nice to see all the fun things you found to do there...because I really had no idea what types of activities were available besides the obvious landmark.

Amy said...

oh. my. gosh.
the elks, bears, reindeer, the LITTLE BABY BLACK BEARS. ahhhhhh i can't handle the cuteness.
i am also super fascinated by the "simple" things animals do!

Caitlin said...

Loved these photos + story! There is a "bear park" up in Maine that my family used to take me to as a little kid... such a fun place. So cool that you got to experience them up close!