Bearing It All in the U.P.

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kick–off to summer and with the weather cooperating, many parks and outdoor attractions saw a good turnout. ABC 10’s Danielle Davis was part of that crowd. We sent her all the way to Newberry to bear the brunt of it all.

“Oooh, look, another bear,” “they’re amazing.”

Dean Oswald has been caring for bears for 30 years now. It’s a mutual admiration. As you can see, they love him just as much as he loves them.

“I had him and they are kind of like children.  You have one, then two, three, four and pretty soon I had a lot of people stopping by and I said I should put a gate up and let them pay for the food and it turned into a business,” said Dean Oswald, Oswald Bear Ranch Owner.

Dean has bottle fed 24 of the 27 bears at his ranch. They eat fruits, vegetables and meats and are fed once a day. But, with 27 bears, the meals add up quickly to about a ton of food a week.

“Our bears eat better than we do, I don’t have any skinny bears,” continued Oswald.

“The ranch has three cubs on premises and these guys are about 4 months old each and they say it only takes about three to four weeks each to train them,” reports Danielle Davis.

The cubs are also very playful, and will play with just about anything like my necklace, or even my car keys. And this one’s curiosity about my camera couldn’t stop him from jumping on board. The ranch sees about 100 people a day with some return visitors.

“Oh, we plan to come back, I knew I would come back some day, love it here. We were just amazed, thrilled out of our minds to see bears, you don’t get to see bears very often.  They’re all beautiful, it’s a very beautiful place and it’s good for the bears, to know that they have nice habitat, they all have ponds, it’s wonderful,” said Laura Reich, Oxford, MI.

The bears and cubs all have names and personalities just like their human counter parts. They all like to play, although for the bigger bears, it’s a bit different from chewing on a key chain. The price to enter the park is $10 dollars per person but just $20 a carload, so the more the merrier.

And as you enter, you can’t miss Carla. She says she has the best job in the whole world.

“Literally people from all over the world have come here.  I’ve met people from Thailand to Australia, British and German, so that’s the exciting part to me is meeting people from all over the world, said Carla Hafferkamp, Gate Admissions, Oswald Bear Ranch.

But after 30 years on the ranch and a retired fireman, Dean may have her beat. “I’m the boss so I promoted myself, so now I am the public relations director.  I sit in that chair and don’t do much,”

Oswald Bear Ranch is pretty much family run.  And instead of signs that you’d see at most parks that say “Don’t feed the animals,” visitors to the Oswald Ranch are encouraged to feed the bears.

“We had a lot of people here that were afraid of bears, before they got here and after they left here, they were great,” continued Oswald.

The ranch is the largest bear ranch in the U.S. and it is open until late September.  You can take photos with the cubs… if you can bear it.