In the fall of 2018 a sow black bear at Grand Teton National Park—who, with her cubs, had been fed illegally by visitors—met a tragic end: park rangers determined that she had to be euthanized. Her two cubs were relocated from Wyoming to Oswald’s Bear Ranch in the Upper Peninsula. Oswald’s, on 240 acres near Tahquamenon Falls, is the largest refuge of its kind in the U.S.

Rescuing the animals has been a passion of former firefighter Dean Oswald since he retired to the U.P. In 1984 he and his wife Jewel established the ranch as a private sanctuary for orphaned cubs and injured bears, and first welcomed the public in 1997. Open to visitors from Memorial Day weekend through September, the ranch is accredited by the Zoological Association of America.

Walking paths wind past four natural—but enclosed—north woods habitats, which separate adult and young males and females. Raised viewing platforms offer photo ops of the fenced- in areas, where at any one time about 40 bears roam, sleep, eat and lumber around. The Bear Cemetery is the resting place of the beloved Tyson who, at 1,000 pounds, was declared America’s largest black bear. BYO camera for a photo with a bear cub; ranch admission and photo fees support the operation and a planned 200-acre expansion.

Photo by Kath Usitalo

This article originally appeared in the 2019 spring/summer issue of Experience Michigan magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.

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Kath Usitalo is the author of three books, “Secret Upper Peninsula: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure,” “100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die” and “100 Things to Do on Mackinac Island Before You Die.”

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