The U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed an Administrative Complaint against Dean and Jewel Oswald of Oswald’s Bear Ranch related to a 2019 bear escape incident that resulted in the death of a 1-year-old bear.
Oswald’s Bear Ranch is a roadside zoo in Newberry, MI, with 41 bears. The facility advertises cub petting encounters, offering the public the opportunity to feed, pet and take photos with bear cubs that were stolen from their mother.
In April 2019, two bears escaped from Oswald’s Bear Ranch. One of the bears that escaped was a 1-year-old female named Sophie.
A May 2021 article by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) indicates Sophie arrived at Oswald’s Bear Ranch from Animal Entertainments, which is the licensed name for Timbavati Wildlife Park, Wisconsin Dells, WI. The facility is owned by Matt and Alice Schoebel. PETA further alleges that Sophie came to Animal Entertainments from Nick’s Barnyard Buddies, a traveling roadside zoo out of Missouri, and that Nick’s Barnyard Buddies may have obtained Sophie from Yellowstone Bear World, another exploitative roadside zoo in Idaho.
When the two bears escaped from Oswald’s Bear Ranch in 2019, Dean Oswald discovered one of the bears outside of the perimeter fence and that bear was tranquilized and returned to the facility, documents indicate. However, Dean was unaware that the second bear, Sophie, had also escaped.
Documents indicate Sophie remained free for three days and her escape was undetected until she traveled to a nearby home on April 15, 2019, where she ripped off screen windows and climbed on the neighbor’s car. A Luce County Sheriff’s Department Deputy shot and killed her.
Dean told USDA officials that the bears escaped during a power outage that occurred on April 13 or 14, 2019, at 9:00 p.m., thru April 15, 2019, at 6:00 a.m. However, documents indicate the USDA confirmed this information was false based on statements Dean made to the Sheriff’s Department and based on information provided by Dean’s electric company.
The power outage actually began and ended on April 12, 2019, and Dean provided false information to the USDA to conceal that Sophie had actually been loose for three days before Oswald’s Bear Ranch realized it, documents indicate.
The administrative complaint also details a June 2021 USDA inspection of Oswald’s Bear Ranch that indicated the facility was only feeding their bears “restaurant scraps, donated meat, produce and dog food as well as food high in fat and caloric content for the time of the year.”
Oswald's Bear Ranch failed to provide their bears with “wholesome, palatable food free from contamination and of sufficient nutritive value to maintain all animals in good health,” documents indicate.
The Administrative Complaint alleges Oswald’s Bear Ranch willfully violated the Animal Welfare Act. If the USDA violations outlined in the Administrative Complaint are found credible, Oswald’s Bear Ranch may face temporary license suspension, license revocation, fines of up to $10,000 per violation, and criminal penalties.
10/7/2021 Administrative Complaint against Oswald's Bear Ranch: