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Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry, MI

While dining at “Gangplanks” for dinner in St. Ignace, we had a great waitress who suggested things for us to see and do around the area. About 40 minutes from our hotel was a ranch, a BEAR ranch, which rescues bears and takes care of them. Having collected bear knick-knacks as a kid, this enticed me to check it out. Having been to “Bear Country USA” in South Dakota, which is STILL high on my list for seeing these amazing creatures up close and personal, this had something that one did not. You could PET a bear cub, now HOW COOL IS THAT??? The place? “Oswald’s Bear Ranch” which you KNOW the Disney dork in me was like, a rabbit owns a bear ranch? You know if you know.  Actually, it is named after the founder and owner, Dean Oswald, who started it for bears needing sanctuary. (Hunchback)

We headed out the next day, about a 40-ish minute drive, the rain trickling down the windowpanes of the jeep as we drove. Umbrellas and rain gear packed, we hoped for the best and figured the bears would probably be around, rain or shine.  They have a huge billboard when you drive in which explains the costs, $25 a car, and you pay at the check-in station. Parking was free, and we just found a spot closest to anything we could run to, since the rain had picked up.

Despite the weather, (August 2022), the only thing I really wanted to get checked off my bucket list was to pet the bear. My mind was racing with the expectations, as a child playing with my bear toys, collecting too as I mentioned previously, the mere thought of one day touching my hand upon one and KEEPING it attached to my body, well hell bring it on!

The bear cubs are the first area on the left as you walk in, and I must stress to you, this is NOT a zoo. This is a ranch, like any cow or horse ranch, they are fenced in, walking around and minding their business. You won’t find other animals, pony rides (I mean, come on, bear rides would be interesting), but they do have a gift shop! The bear cubs were all playing, and we approached the sign that said the pictures were $10 and they take them with your own camera/phone.

How does it work? You pay one of the employees the cash, they only take cash or check in the Park- NO ATMs, and they line you up. Once the bear cub is secure, they walk you in and CLEARLY listen to their rules and instructions. I was able to feed them a treat off a stick, and while they are distracted more or less, you get to pet them. I WAS IN HEAVEN!! I was petting a FREAKING BEAR!!! It was such a cool experience, I didn’t feel scared at all, and they were very helpful and clear on making me and Craig both feel safe to do this. Craig let me feed the bear, so I thought that was super sweet- he’s a keeper. The experience was all of 10 minutes maybe, but I am sure they don’t want to spend too much time with strangers near the bears. We are just as unpredictable creatures as they are, keep it short and sweet. And a priceless memory!!

On a side note, they had PETA signs on the property with not so nice things to say about them. On their own website they have a message that states they are being targeted by PETA. I don’t know, and you don’t know, what bear is recued, how they got there, etc.. My hope is that places like these are taking good care of them, but there is always that tinge in my heart that says their safety is at the cost of their freedom. If they are indeed bears who were abused or neglected in the wild, and can be nurtured back to health, then well done. But you must wonder why they are being targeted and what they saw that they didn’t like. So just a heads up, the signage there is a bit jarring and honestly, they don’t need it and shouldn’t make it public knowledge of their business affairs. You can read more about it on their website.

Honestly, petting the bear is all I really wanted to do there. The Ranch itself is good hour or more to explore and walk around, but like I said, if the bears aren’t visible, there isn’t much too see but their habitats. The paths surrounding the habitats are NOT PAVED and were VERY muddy when it was raining. The enclosures are VERY BIG so they can roam with a lot of room, but also hide pretty well, so we had a hard time seeing most of them. We walked all of the paths around them, trying to avoid getting dirty from the mud as much as possible.

Opened in 1997, they own over 240 acres and practice what is known as “Conservation Science” with a total of 40 bears to date. I think the experience itself is worth the drive over, PLUS, the Tahquamenon Falls are up the road from here and they are SPECTACULAR! That’s why it’s a good move to stay in St. Ignace if you want to explore not only the city, but Mackinac Island, Sault St Marie and the Canadian border is only an hour away. I highly recommend this area to enjoy all the spoils and scenery that the Upper Peninsula has to offer. Enjoy!

****Side note, thanks to EVERYONE who have donated to my hard work. This is what I do for a living, and it is a passion for me, so tossing me a couple bucks below helps me SO MUCH with everything needed. If you can’t, please consider subscribing to the blog, LIKING the blog post, and sharing any content you enjoy– it helps me out SOOOO much! I love being able to bring you all these amazing places so that YOU can do them as well. I work mostly on donations so thanks again.


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