Driving down the road with a huge black bear walking alongside me sounds right up my alley so when my daughter and I were asked along on a trip to Bearizona, I knew we had to go. Many of my friends over the years have suggested I go and they were absolutely right. My daughter and I loved it!
Our day started before the sun and almost 4 hours later we arrived at Bearizona! The entrance sign grabs your attention and the excitement hits! Black bears, wolves, bighorn sheep, and others are waiting for us to see them!
The instructions were clear – windows up at all times and if an animal approaches your vehicle, keep driving because some of these crafty critters have learned how to remove items from vehicles. We also had a dog in our truck so she emphasized for the safety of the animals that our windows remain closed at all times. No problem, windows closed sounds like a great idea to me!
My favorite part of the drive through portion was watching the bears swim and having bighorn sheep walk a few feet from me. I often see sheep from my kayak, but this is totally different having them right outside your window!
Many people do not realize that the Arizona Game & Fish Department works closely with Bearizona and many of the animals living at the park are brought here by Game & Fish. Some are rescued, some abandoned, and some are problem animals that need relocated. Without Bearizona many of these critters could’ve been euthanized, but now have a place to live out their days and in turn we are able to observe them. Animal conservation happens in many forms, but by purchasing a ticket to Bearizona, you are helping the cause.
I once spent five days on the North Rim hoping to photograph bison. I drove daily into Grand Canyon National Park from Jacob’s Lake, but was skunked each time. Two years later, here I am seeing bison just down the road from the South Rim at Bearizona. You can’t always locate these animals in the wild, but at Bearizona you can!
Next up is the walk through portion of the park, which is more typical of a zoo setting, but many of these enclosures are natural with old-growth pines. Absolutely no dogs are allowed in this area, including service dogs, and this is for the safety of the animals. Javelina,bobcat, porcupine, birds of prey, black bears, ring tailed cat, wolves, foxes, otters, raccoons, elk, mule deer, Coues deer, bighorn sheep, buffalo, burros and let’s not forget a jaguar are only some of the animals you’ll see at the park. Many of these animals live here in Arizona and since my daughter has her first deer hunt coming up, this was the perfect place to discuss the differences between a Coues Whitetail Deer and a Mule Deer especially when the two species were standing only a few feet from each other. The trip was worth it just for that! It’s not often in the wild you see a Coues Deer and a Mule Deer in the same herd. I’ve only seen this a time or two myself, and I’ve never seen bear cubs up close, but I was about to!
Four black bear cubs are the highlight of it all! We made three trips back to their enclosure to watch their antics. I do not have a lot of experience with bears having only crossed their paths a few times in the wild, so I was shocked by how small bear cubs actually are. No wonder mama bears are so protective of their young. They are tiny and need protecting! I highly recommend visiting the park soon and plan on spending extra time enjoying these cubs.
We spent 8 hours driving to and from, but it was 100% worth it and made an excellent Arizona day trip! Where else can you go and literally be surrounded by black bears and then eat lunch while watching a jaguar? Bearizona is a one of a kind experience and we loved it!