|Jean Robb and Baby bear.|
|Dr Lynn Rogers|
The most common expression we hear from first-time visitors as they step inside the door of the Bear Center is "Wow!" That's because we put our resources and energies into creating a welcoming interior full of educational displays.
The educational goal of the Bear Center is to replace myths about bears with reality.
A wall of natural wood and a huge mural depicting area wildife greet Bear Center visitors. Both black and brown/grizzly bear mounts in natural poses add to the mood. A huge life-size replica of a short-face bear skeleton dominates the main exhibit area. A wall of windows overlooks the bear enclosure with its pond and waterfalls. The windows blanket the building with natural light—drawing visitors in. Subtle background sounds of bears foraging, cubs nursing, and birds singing fill the air—all natural sounds that come from the 30+ TVs playing high-definition video footage of wild black bears and wild brown/grizzly bears as they go about their daily activities. The Bear Center also features a theater playing the best in bear videos.
The 'Cub Room' beckons kids of all ages as they walk in the door. A large-screen TV in the Cub Room continuously plays video footage of a wild black bear mother and cub playing. Another TV shows a wild black bear digging a den and pulling out a rock. The rock is on display for kids to test their strangth against. How strong is that bear?
The Cub Room also has a bear den kids can crawl in, a loft with pillows and books, a carved wooden bear, educational posters and displays, a light table, and an activity table. Kids are drawn to the short-faced bear skelton and marvel at its size!
The Bear Center walls went up in June 2006 and we opened our doors to the public in early May 2007. The displays and exhibits were created by many dedicated volunteers—each with a passion for bears. Efforts were concentrated on educational exhibits, the captive bear enclosure, and the gift shop area. Our exterior will get a boost this spring when a log canopy is erected over the entry.
The Bear Center is also home to three captive black bears living in a forested 2-acre enclosure.
The captive bears are Ted, an 11-year-old male; Honey, a 12-year-old female; and Lucky, a yearling male. The Ted is black and is the largest black bear in Minnesota—weighing 860.5 pounds on November 12, 2007—and perhaps the largest black bear in the world. Honey is brown and might be the prettiest bear in Minnesota. Lucky came to us as cub in July of 2007 and we think he is the cutest bear in Minnesota. These bears can be viewed from the indoor viewing windows or the outdoor viewing balcony—both offering an excellent view of the pond and waterfall area which the bears frequent.
The videos of wild bears featured in the Bear Center let people learn from the bears themselves. They include videos on vocalizations, body language, mating, fighting, nursing, hibernation, care of cubs, exiting from the den, foraging for different classes of food (ant pupae, animal matter, upland vegetation, aquatic vegetation, tent caterpillars, berries, hazelnuts), various kinds of play, and weekly updated video on bear activities in the woods around Ely. Portions of those videos are available here online.
There are also video exhibits on pepper spray, and radio-collaring bears. Additional video exhibits feature coastal brown/grizzly bears fishing, clamming, grazing, playing, fighting, and mating.
A collection of scary magazine and book covers and inside photos illustrates the misinformation the public has received over the years—and continues to receive. A video shows how these same bears are trained to open their mouth for the photos.
A new exhibit focuses on bear sign in several categories—tracks, trails, beds, marking, and scat analysis. Visitors can learn to tell if there are bears in their area by learning to read the sign bears leave behind.
During the summer of 2008 we opened a quarter-mile interpretive nature trail. Addtional trails are under development.
I know you'll fall in love with them like I have.
Should our grandchildren and great grandchildren
live in a world without bears? NO .......... Act now.