ELY - The North American Bear Center here, the only black bear and wildlife educational facility of its kind, re-opened for the season this month and is once again welcoming visitors after a year of …
ELY - The North American Bear Center here, the only black bear and wildlife educational facility of its kind, re-opened for the season this month and is once again welcoming visitors after a year of COVID-19 restrictions
“We are dedicated to replacing old myths with facts. People learn from the bears themselves about bear behavior, ecology, and their relations with humans,” said Senior Operations Director Scott Edgett. “We work closely with our partners at the Wildlife Research Institute and renowned bear biologist Dr. Lynn Rogers to create exhibits and content for the Bear Center. You can spend hours or days exploring all of our exhibits and videos about black bear behavior and animals that coexist with black bears in the north woods.”
Along with the expertise of Dr. Rogers, the NABC staff includes Sharon Herrell, senior bear keeper, who maintains the health and well-being of the center’s four ambassador bears, Holly, Ted, Lucky and Tasha.
Carolyn Quick is the Bear Center’s volunteer coordinator. Taking a year off from visitors last year, the Bear Center is in the midst of developing and training the many volunteers who help give visitors a more enriching experience. “An important part of our volunteers’ time here is to educate the folks and answer questions, point out more information for them, and of course to help with our bears,” she said.
The Bear Center opened for the season on April 16, and is open on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the rest of this month. The Bear Center will open daily for the season on Tuesday, May 4. Daily hours expand on Memorial Day weekend.
The Bear Center held on online Volunteer Appreciation event last Friday as staff officially kicked off the new season.
The four ambassador bears emerged from hibernation between March 15 and April 3 this year. While the staff was in the yard, Holly came around to greet them. “We refurbished our display area pond last year,” Edgett said. “I heard rumors that there may be fish in there,” he said with a wry grin. “One of our new volunteers insisted that we stock the pond.”
Dr. Rogers related the health challenges he encountered late last year. “I have relied on volunteers since the beginning of my career,” he said. “They make so much more happen than is otherwise possible. Thank you to all of our volunteers.”
Edgett introduced the new NABC volunteer coordinator, Carolyn Quick. “She was actually one of the volunteers and is now an employee with us,” he said. “She is looking to take the volunteer program back to what it was and hopefully beyond that.”
The Bear Center staff struggled with volunteer numbers last year during the coronavirus pandemic. “We couldn’t do as good as we liked because of all the other things, but we’re going to pick this back up and take off this year.”
Dr. Rogers’ decades of trust-based research methods combine scientific observation with modern technology. “I think this way reveals more about black bear life than was ever learned with traps and tranquilizers,” he said. “Attitudes change as bears themselves refute our most deeply held misconceptions.”
Quick said her time working with Dr. Rogers dates back to 1988. “Lynn and I have a history of working well together, and I’m thrilled to continue the efforts here at the Bear Center and to help grow the volunteer program. There is so much talent here.”
NABC intern Carter Hall will be programming a daily Critter Corner this year that will be highlighting all the animals that bears co-exist with in the wild. That program will take play in the Ecology Hall portion of the Bear Center. “He will be presenting with some snakes, salamanders, turtles and other creatures one normally doesn’t see in the forest,” Edgett said. The educational programs will be held twice a day.
While capacity is currently limited to 50 percent because of COVID precautions, he said, they will start the season without taking reservations. “We have a very large capacity here,” Edgett said. The Lily Pad picnic event will not be held in 2021.
For more information on the North American Bear Center, go to www.bear.org, or call, 218-365-7879.