Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

American Bear Association opens new visitors center/office in Orr

Marcus White
Posted 12/5/18

ORR - The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary has been operating out of a new home here for the past few months. Since August, visitors to the sanctuary have been welcomed at what was both the old …

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American Bear Association opens new visitors center/office in Orr

Posted

ORR - The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary has been operating out of a new home here for the past few months. Since August, visitors to the sanctuary have been welcomed at what was both the old Ferrellgas office and the original home of the Timberjay on Hwy. 53 south of town.

The American Bear Association, which owns the sanctuary, has had the building for three years, but only recently began moving into the new space.

“This was the first year the plans solidified,” Association Director Steph Horner said. “We wanted somewhere on the highway to attract people and grab their attention.”

Previously, the sanctuary rented office space at the Orr Center.

While the new center hasn’t had its official grand opening yet, Horner said they’re hoping to cut the ribbon next May. In addition to offering administrative offices, the new center has a small classroom and will offer some souvenir items for sale in its small gift shop. The association does operate a small gift shop on the bear sanctuary grounds, but the new one will be much more visible to the general public on Hwy. 53. The sanctuary itself is located about 15 miles west of Orr on County Road 23, then another mile or so north on a narrow gravel road, a location that has regularly confused potential sanctuary visitors who aren’t familiar with the area. Horner said the sanctuary will be adding a shuttle service from the visitors center on Hwy. 53 to the grounds next year.

The association is also planning educational programs and other uses to better serve the association’s mission. The first program will be held next month when Horner will offer a Friday evening educational session followed by a field hike on snowshoes the following morning during which Horner hopes to show participants a wild bear in its winter den.

“If the program does well, we’ll add more programs focusing on more animals in northern Minnesota.”

The sanctuary has been open since 1995 when the American Bear Association assumed ownership of the property formerly owned by Vince Shute, who had begun feeding bears at his former logging camp back in the 1970s. The site eventually attracted large numbers of bears, as well as people who came to watch the bears. Since taking over the site, the association shifted the feeding operation to healthier fare, ended handfeeding of bears, and built a protected viewing platform to keep humans and bears separate.

More info on upcoming programs at the sanctuary can be found at www.americanbear.org or by calling 218-757-0172.

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