On Wednesday we went to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.
It is a not-for-profit nature center.
There are ten grizzly bears, all of which are "rescue bears" that cannot be returned to the wild, because before they came to the center they
- had become problem bears who had discovered the easy life raiding garbage cans and finding pet food at people's houses, or
- were cubs of mother bears who had been shot by hunters.
The center has a large bear viewing enclosure that is about an acre with a wild grassy knoll, a pool, a dirt pit, trees, and many large and small rocky areas. There is a deep moat between the enclosure and the people so there is no need for a fence on that side.
The bears have locked dens behind the viewing enclosure, and only a few are out at a time. Every half-hour or so, whatever bears are out go back to their den, and a keeper spends some time hiding food such as fruit under the rocks, and in places the bears will have to work to get at it. They also put live fish in the pond, and bones, or pieces of hide. Sometimes they will put out rotting wood full of bugs, or honey. They call this enrichment and the bears do seem to enjoy looking for these treasures and tidbits.
All of the bears looked very relaxed and healthy. They, and the wolves are all neutered. This is a rescue and education center, not a breeding and entertainment facility. We really enjoyed the slow pace of just watching bears doing bear things, much as they would in the wild.
This guy entertained with what looked like a playful roll in the grass. Maybe his back itched!
We watched this bear twirl this stick like a parade rifle. The keeper on duty said it was just a stick and didn't have any bugs or honey in it.
A half dozen rescued birds of prey also live at the center. Like the bears, they had been injured and would not survive in the wild. Housed in reasonably large enclosures, they live better than most caged birds do.
Seven wolves live in three large enclosures. They also have dens, but spend most of the day sleeping or relaxing outside in nice weather.
Raw bones and bit of hide are hidden.
This guy found some elk, and took it to a back corner of the enclosure, out of sight to chew on.
The keeper rubs different scents are on rocks and in the grass. This days scent was mink oil, which was pungent even to Craig outside. They also put out Elk pee.
The two wolves we watched are brothers. They were bred for show business and after they were used in a movie they were given a home at the Center. They are neither pets nor wild, and would be killed by other wolves if released.
Although the day started a bit overcast, once again it turned our to be pleasantly warm and sunny. Our day at the Center was very low key. The senior admission price was only $10.25. We highly recommend this "Not For Profit" facility as a supplement to the Yellowstone experience and as a way to see bears and wolves up close.
We will keep our eyes open, who knows, we might get lucky and see something besides elk, bison, and people in the park.