After Regis got the tire fixed, I went to the Park Information Center. I am a book addict and love to pick up good books (and eventually give them away so I can pick up more). The Park Information/Visitor Center was the first one I’ve been to that did not have a gift shop and items to sell. I was able to pick up a state map for Idaho and Wyoming, and I got some information on the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
I had seen advertisements for the Center when we got to town and considered going, but found out they had live animals and didn’t think I could bear it after my visit to the Game Park on the Olympic Peninsula. At the visitor center, I found out that it was a non-profit and the mission was primarily about education. (http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.com/) Therefore, I decided to go. I am very glad that I did and I have become even more horrified over the game park I visited on the Olympic Peninsula.
I visited the center in the morning without a camera and fell in love with the place. The animals are in good enclosures and clearly healthy. Naturalists are there to educate you and they have super programs for kids. Each animal that is there has a name and the story about why they are there and not out running around in the wild. This appears to be a first class, well run organization that takes good care of the animals and does a great job educating the public. The game park on the Olympic Peninsula is a for profit organization. Their bears are clearly in much poorer shape than the ones in the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The animals they have at the Game Park in outside enclosures might be okay, but the animals the Game Park has in caged enclosures should be taken away from them and given to facilities that know how to properly care for and enrich the animals.
While I was inside the building, the doors were open to the outside and I knew the live animals were out there. I started hearing a lot of bird noises and thought some video must be playing but couldn’t find it. When I went outside, I saw Ravens everywhere. I saw the wolves and some birds of prey. I saw kids going through the outside bear enclosure and then shortly thereafter, the bears showed up (after the children left). I couldn’t make sense of what was going on. I got a text from Regis since I had been gone a lot longer than planned. Since I had now been gone several hours and my ticket was good for two days, I decided to return to the RV and make sure I returned to the Center with a the camera.
After arriving at the RV, Regis was most excited about the map I obtained for Idaho. He is mystified about why we got lost yesterday when he did so much research to get us to the right place. I can’t tell you how much time he spent staring at the map and Google Earth before he was finally satisfied that he understood what happened. Then he went to change the fixed tire. After fixing the tire, we decided that he would relax with Dart and I would go back to the Center with the camera. I managed to spend quite a few hours there and learned a bunch of stuff that is too much to share here. But, I must share the following.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center have quite a few bears that all wind up there for a variety of reasons that make it impossible for them to be in the wild. They have one outdoor viewing area where they hide food and then let one or more bears out at a time for about 45 minutes to find and eat the food. The bears have to turn over rocks and logs to find the food, thereby enriching their experience. At they end of their allotted time (which the bears have figured out), they go back to their enclosures that we don’t see but apparently contain the really good food. Therefore, they want to go back. More food is hidden and new bears show up. Twice a day, they let children hide the food. How cool is that? But, the Ravens have it all figured out. They congregate between bear viewings and as soon as the person hiding the food leaves, they descend on the enclosure to eat what they can find before the bears and other ravens find it. The show is fascinating to watch. The ravens also descend on the wolf enclosure because there are various food items to be found their also.
The Center has some birds of prey that have been hurt in various ways and can not live in the wild. They are in very nice enclosures also.
During one of the bear swaps, we got a demonstration about bear spray and how to properly walk in bear country. Since someone was just killed in the Park, this was a particularly hot topic. A few things I learned include: walk in groups of three or more and talk so you don’t startle the bear and bells don’t do much good and can actually attract bears. If you see a bear and it doesn’t see you, slowly walk away the way you came. Remember, don’t startle the bear. If the bear notices you and stands on his/her hind legs to get a better smell, it is just curious and may not be a problem. The bears mostly likely to be a problem are mother’s protecting cubs or a bear protecting a carcass (food source). Three things to look out for with the bears demeanor: 1) shaking their head back and forth, 2) growling and grunting, and 3) hitting their paws on the ground. If they do that, you have a problem. At this point, you better have bear spray in a very convenient location. This is not the time to sort through your backpack for it. When the bear charges, don’t run. (Sounds like a tough one to me.) It will affect they prey drive and they will run after you and they will win. If the bear charges, wait until it is 30 feet away (good luck waiting) and spray for 3 seconds low toward the groumd (not above it’s head since it is running on all fours). The spray goes out 30 feet and irritates them for about 30 minutes. You now have time to back away and get out of there. If this happens, it is requested that you IMMEDIATELY find a park ranger and let them know so the area can be closed off from other hikers. After 30 minutes, the bear is going to be very mad and any other hiker in its path better also have some bear spray. Also, most cans of spray last at least 6 seconds. You want to leave some in the can for your retreat. If the bear is just being curious, there is no need to douse it with bear spray. Leave the poor animal alone and find somewhere else to hike.
Bear spray is not repellent and it is not to be put on your family and clothes like bug repellent. It is only to be used when you wish you didn’t have to use it.
The Center uses their bears to test products like containers (e.g. food containers and trash cans) for the bears’ ability to get into them. If the bear can’t get into it after 90 minutes, it is considered good enough. There is one particular bear at the center that excels at breaking into things, so he is the ultimate bear tester and loves doing it.
I could go on because I had such a great time there. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting West Yellowstone. Your ticket will let you in for two days in case you want to go back.
When I got back to the campground, this is what I saw.