Oswald Bear Ranch in Michigan

By Bonnie and Bill Neely

While enjoying the beautiful forests and cool of summer in Newberry, Michigan, we found The Logging Museum at the edge of town is worth a stop. With various kinds of saws and equipment of historical logging, the small museum and typical house of lumberjacks were interesting. One building houses memorabilia of The Civilian Conservation Corps, which from 1933-1942 put starving people to work during the Great Depression and built the landmarks, roads, bridges, and National Parks we enjoy today. This place is really worth a longer visit with so very much to see and learn. Logging was one of the most important industries for building our country. Thankfully, most of the forests have been replanted and flourish today.

A few miles northwest we next drove to Oswald Bear Ranch. It is a Black Bear Rescue Haven operated since 1984 by the retired firefighter, Dean Oswald and his wife Jewel and now joined by their son and grandchildren, and open to the public since 1997. It is a great place to learn about bears. The nominal fee per car and the souvenir sales support the life of the bears. From all over the United States injured black bears, which can be cinnamon or brown in color, are brought for the Oswalds to nurse them to health and keep them in a wonderful natural environment on a 240 acre ranch. In this habitat they can roam and live fairly normally for the rest of their lives.

We were so eager to experience the Must-Do there.  We handed our camera to the bear keeper for him to make our picture petting a baby bear cub. The handler feeds the cub some strawberry jam on a wooden spoon while we rubbed the bear’s furry back. What a special opportunity! The safety rules are strictly enforced and the little bears are so happy to have the attention. It was great.

As they grow healthy the mature females are confined in one large habitat while the males are kept fenced in another natural habitat to prevent mating. Each habitat has fresh running water, trees, and places where they hibernate from November to mid-April in their own dens beneath stumps where they have straw on a wood floor.  Bears are born in spring weighing only about 8 ounces and can grow to as much as 1,000 pounds! After living in a domestic setting, bears lose their ability to survive on their own in the wild.  From all over the United States injured bears or abandoned cubs that are rescued arrive here to be nursed to health and stay the rest of their lives. They live for 30 – 40 years, so if they are rescued as cubs to live here it becomes their orphanage to their nursing home for old age.   It is possible for them to be given to places that have drive-through natural habitats, but not to zoos. The Oswalds are very careful that the bears are never caged. The ranch is certified and approved by all the animal regulating protection agencies and is a good home for bears where they are certainly loved and well cared for. It is a wonderful place for people of all ages to visit!


http://newberrytourism.com/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_Conservation_Corps, http://www.exploringthenorth.com/newbchamb/calend.html, http://www.oswaldsbearranch.com/