Can You Own A Pet Bear?

Do bears make good pets? The answer to this question is definitely no! It is a huge difference if you want to have a grizzly bear, a black bear or even a koala bear. But not a single of the mentioned species makes a good pet. In this article, you are going to learn why.

Can You Have A Bear As A Pet?

No, there are various reasons, why bears don’t make good pets. However, different species come along with different arguments:

  • Grizzly bears and brown bears are just giant wild animals that are dangerous.
  • Polar bears are dangerous but they also need a cold climate and it’s difficult to provide proper care.
  • Black bears are small and some might consider that they could be a good pet if every other bear is a bad choice. But they still are wild and unpredictable animals.
  • Panda bears are cute and seem to be chilled. Apart from their special needs all pandas of the world are owned by the Chinese government.
  • Koala bears are small and friendly animals. But you have to know that they are listed as endangered. Apart from legal issues you likely won’t be able to get all the necessary eucalyptus leaves.

Is It Legal To Have A Pet Bear?

The right answer is “it depends”. While bear ownership is prohibited in most states as well as many countries outside the US, there are some that don’t regulate it at all.

Of course, you can argue about this fact. After all, every law that contains wildlife in any form is to protect nature from humans and humans from nature.

In the case of bears, it should be obvious that the safety of owners, visitors and neighbors has to be granted at any time.

In this states you can have a bear as a pet without restrictions:

  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • Wisconsin
  • Alabama
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina

A special permit that ensures the safety of the animal and humans is needed in:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee 
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Why Bears Don’t Make Good Pets

Even if pet bears are allowed in your state, it might not be a good idea to get one.

Bears Are Not Domesticated

You can read many stories about bears and their strong relationships with their owners on the internet. But you will find the same amount of articles about bears that have killed their owners.

How can that be? While it is possible to tame a bear, these animals aren’t domesticated like cats and dogs. Between these words is a huge difference!

Taming can be successful especially when a young bear cub is raised by humans from a very young age. The bear gets used to humans and can even enjoy companionship. But its wild instinct can take over in various sets of situations. This is how all these stories about strong bonds and killed owners take place.

Domestication on the other hand means, that selective breeding over many generations formed the animal to meet our needs. Of course, this can’t be the case with bears and other wild animals like lions for example.

Bears Can Get Old

Bears can get quite old. Depending on the species 20 or even 30 years are no exception. Additionally, you can expect your bear to live even longer in captivity.

Do you really want to have such a long commitment?

Veterinary Care Is Hard To Find

If you are serious and want your pet to live a good life, veterinary care is obligatory. You need a good vet that has a lot of expertise with the species you own.

All vets that have experience with bears work at a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. Typically these jobs are full-time and chances are low to find one that is willing to treat your pet bear.

Of course, everyone hopes that his pet is always healthy. But even if this is the case, regular checkups are inevitable.

Bears Need A Lot Of Food

Most bears will eat just everything. Their typical diet includes berries, flowers and roots as well as meat and fish.

But you have to know, that bears can eat a lot. A brown bear for example needs up 90 pounds of food per day.

Not everyone can afford these amounts of food. Another problem is that you would have to store it somewhere and some parts of the diet like fish can start to rot very soon if not properly cooled.

As you can imagine there is no such thing like a “balanced bear diet” in the pet shop. You would have to make sure enough variety and a good nutritional value on your own.

Bears Need A Large Enclosure

Big animals need big enclosures, that’s how it works. Even the smallest bear will need so much space, that only a few people would be able to offer the room.

Additionally, a good portion of the space has to be outside. Trees, water, mud all these things belong into a bear run that makes the animals happy. Of course, you would need to provide shelter too. Even bears that are familiar with harsh weather conditions need an enclosure that protects them.

Permits Are Expensive And Hard To Get

Last but not least permits and licenses for bear ownership are hard to get and extremely expensive. 

You would have to show, that you are able to take proper care of your pet bear. Additionally, the setup for your bear has to be 100% escape-proof so that nobody gets hurt.

How To Get A Pet Bear

You can’t buy a bear straight away in a pet shop. Breeders typically don’t sell their cubs to private persons, especially without a permit.

Sometimes bear cubs are for sale at the black market but it is an illegal and irresponsible way to get your pet bear.

If you find a lost bear cub in nature it’s also not a good idea to raise it on your own. Even if you can find stories about people who did this successfully, the right choice would be to contact a local rehabber.