Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Before Encountering these Two Species in Yellowstone National Park, Learn About Them at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

Looks are not deceiving.

Looks are not deceiving.

©Bert Gildart: Sam, the bear, apparently was hungry. Entering the compound he padded to a large tree and began rocking it back and forth. Food had been placed in a large sack and was located higher than he could reach. When Sam couldn’t bend the tree far enough to reach it, the huge 1,000 pound bear stooped down and with a mighty heave, hefted the tree from it foundation. His reward was the bag of bird seed.

Shortly thereafter we watched as he delivered on a set of facial expressions that sent a hush through our small group.

According to John Heine, director of the Girzzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana, eight grizzly bears are rotated throughout the day, and when they enter the compound, they are hungry. Sam was the largest of all the bears, and when he entered the center he immediately demonstrated the extent to which he could go when hungry.

Though Sam is large for a Montana grizzly, he is not an exceptionally large bear in the area from which he was rescued. Sam and his sister “Illie” were brought to the center in the fall of 1996. Sam is named after the town of King Salmon where he and Illie were rescued.

Like other bears in the center, he was there because of some unfortunate set of circumstances. Orphaned in 1996 when he was six months old, he had not learned had to care for himself. Without a mother to feed them, Sam, and sister Illie, turned to human food and soon became a nuisance. Wildlife managers trapped the pair, but because they were trapped in Katmai National Park mangers attempted to find them a home, and found one in Montana.

Just playing folks

Just playing folks

Though their new home was far from Katmai in Alaska, here at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center they live a life style that seems to provide them with contentment. As well, they are part of a group that serve to educate the public at large in a way that certainly seems to instill respect and awe in all who watch. In fact, the center is so well respected that naturalist in Yellowstone National Park use the huge compound for several of their own educational programs.

Though I was interested in Sam as a photographic subject, I was particularly interested in one of the other bears at the center, specifically a bear that had been removed from Whitefish, Montana, which is near my home in Bigfork. “Spirit” was removed because she had started grazing on lawns and golf courses in the residential areas of Whitefish. In other words, the bear had become a nuisance because it was returning to the area their ancestors had once occupied. Spirit had returned home, but in the course of doing so had become a problem-because her habitat had been replaced with a golf course.

Determination has rewards

Determination has rewards

Biologists in the Flathead Valley had attempted to employ aversive techniques without luck. They had tried firecrackers, pepper spray, even Karelian dogs, but no luck, for the bear had become conditioned to the food found in unattended bird feeders and garbage that had not been properly disposed, conditions the Wolf and Bear Center focus on in their educational programs.

Sam the not-so-gentle giant

Sam, the not-so-gentle giant

Such is the background of bears brought into the center, and here, rather than death, they serve a function that Yellowstone Park recognizes as being one of importance. In fact, not only does the park service conduct programs here but various garbage companies use these bears to test the degree to which garbage bins may prove to be tamper resistant.

Though Janie and I both abhor the exploitation of wildlife for commercial gains, this particular complex is a non-profit organization, one that plows much of its earnings back into their educational programs and into the creation of habitat that benefits the various creatures the center has taken in.

We highly recommend it as a way of learning more about several very controversial animals that roam free in Yellowstone National Park, located immediately adjacent to the Grizzly Wolf Discovery Center.

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