North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota

This is an amazing place!  We learned that black bears are not always black and learned more on various other misconceptions about black bears.  It made us stop and rethink what we thought we knew about black bears.

There are learning centers with pictures, videos and an hour long BBC movie presentation about the bears, the center and the research that was done by Lynne Rogers, PhD.  Dr. Rogers presents a more docile picture of the bears and focuses on the intelligence and misunderstandings about black bears to the general public.  It is obvious that he loves his work and his bears.

The bears reside on 2.5 acres of forest with food and water resources for them to naturally forage.  Their diet is subsidized by the center twice a day.  I asked what their diet was in those meals and it was a large portion of dried protein, fruits and nuts.

They have a gallery with a large viewing window and an outside upper level viewing deck which allows the bears to be in view on their natural surroundings.  They saunter in and out of the viewing garden to snack on rye grass, aspen leaves and to swim in the small pond.  They also respond to their names when called to snack time several times a day for the guests to get a good look at them.  Today they were treated with a large frozen Popsicle with berries and nuts.

There are several learning programs presented daily and a new ecology room with forest educational information on the animals and plants that live there.

The oldest male at 18 years is Ted.  He has his own webcam and can be seen at www.bear.org .  We took a guided tour to visit his den.  He has the run of the place in the mornings and Lucky, a now mature 8 year old male has the run of the place in the afternoon.  That way there are no arguments among the males for dominance.

All of the bears had wet noses, bright eyes,  shiny coats and appeared to be very happy bears.  All den or cages that we saw appeared clean and did not smell dirty or dungy.  Each male had a water tub to dip into for warm days to cool off, a safe dark place to nap, and foraging plants in their dens.

I liked the outside interaction of the bears with one another and I learned a lot inside the center.  I really liked playing the audio of the various noises that bears make and the definition of each noise.

This facility has few paid employees and is run with the help of many volunteers and the donations from fees, gift shop purchases and fund raisers.  It is a worthy cause, so please go visit this interesting jewel in the woods if you are ever in the area.

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