After two months hiking in the woods of central and northern Idaho, we still hadn’t seen a bear. A major disappointment; and now, we were heading into the bear-free country of eastern Idaho. But there was one last option on the table. As dejected as a family who’d been hoping for a European vacation but settles for Epcot, we pulled up to the gates of Yellowstone Bear World.
No, I don’t mean the “bear-rich world of Yellowstone”, but Yellowstone Bear World: an theme-park/zoo hybrid outside Rexburg that has nothing to do with the national park. And which, for two people, actually costs more than the real Yellowstone charges for a week. But by this point we didn’t care. We were determined to see bears, whether they were enclosed or not.
Yellowstone Bear World may not offer an authentic experience, but it certainly delivers the goods. I eventually lost count of the number of bears we sighted, but there must be a hundred running around the park. We stayed in our car the whole time, driving at five miles-per-hour, occasionally having to stop for a bear on the road. It was low-risk but still exciting, and the bears were so used to cars filled with gape-mouthed gawkers that they paid us absolutely no mind.
Bear World offers more than just bears; we also saw bison, antelope, deer and moose. But the highlight was the small enclosure holding the bear cubs. Six little guys wresting with each other, climbing rocks and feeding from bottles. Additionally, there was a small petting zoo with barnyard animals like pigs and goats. Why anyone would want to waste their time petting a goat, when there are wrestling bear cubs right next door is beyond me. (But then, petting farm animals is a thrill I’ve never understood. Even as a child, I would contemplate my peers with disgust as they touched a pig and squealed with delight. How did you think it would feel?)
Almost despite ourselves, we had a good time in Bear World. We had come to see bears, and that mission was definitely accomplished. The entrance ticket allows you to drive through the park as many times as you’d like, so it’s not hard to get your money’s worth. Seeing a bear in the wilderness would have been a lot better, but this was an acceptable consolation.
Link: Yellowstone Bear World