Wednesday, January 2, 2008

THE FORTRESS OF THE BEAR

In 2007 a license was awarded to a couple in this town to raise and keep Alaskan bears in an
enclosure where they could be viewed by the public. Not very many of these licenses are given,
I believe this is the first one in 14 years.

The enclosure is named The Fortress of the Bear and there are now 2 cubs living there. They are
brothers and came here because their mother decided that she wanted to raid the kitchen of a
remote lodge north of here.

The owners of the lodge found her inside with her 3 little cubs and couldn't get her to leave. In
the resulting tussle to get her out of the kitchen, one of the cubs was killed and the other 2 took
off. The mother was killed, so everyone knew the other cubs had to be found or they would die
for sure.

One cub was found and was sent down here to live. I happened to be at the farm (that's what
everyone here calls it) late summer with my brother and his kids when we found out the first cub
had arrived the night before.

We couldn't really see him much because they had the room he was in piled with straw, but the
owner said he was about the size of a large dog and he was able to throw a plastic fish crate they
had in there with him to sleep in around like it was nothing. Those fish crates weigh 50 pounds
each, so that tells you how strong they are even when still very little!

Awhile later the other cub was found and he was also sent down here, so now they are growing up
together. It is interesting to me how much of a controversy this has caused in this small town
between groups of people. On one side there is a whole group against keeping any bears in any
kind of enclosure. They feel native animals should be left in the wild. Other people believe that
it was a good thing to save the cub's lives and that we can learn a lot by observing them and that
the public will really enjoy the exhibit.

Personally, I think it's great that the bears are there and we went and saw them this month so my
mother in law could enjoy them too. They weren't very cooperative because we were there about
12:00 pm and they had already eaten. They were kind of lazing around their shelter since it was
so cold out and their shelter is filled with straw.

The owner did tell us that they stay away from the cubs so they don't get too used to humans. He
had to rescue them this last month though because the enclosure has water in it that froze over and
the cubs were on it when the ice broke. They both went in and had to be helped out. That's as close
as they like to get to them.

The enclosure is very large that they are in and there are about 250 trees growing in there for them
to climb on and play with. I guess they are pretty hard on them--he said they have already destroyed
about 25 of the trees. There are plans to add tons of rock for them to climb on once the snow clears
and they are talking about connecting the second enclosure they have with the first one by a bridge so
they can go back and forth. Once that happens they will have several acres to roam on and call their
own.

The main part of their diet is dog food and it is supplemented by fish, venison, fruit and vegetables.

I did manage to get one picture when one of them snuck out to get a peek at us. The owner gave
them apples to come out but the ravens got them before the cubs. They really did look like giant
teddy bears, complete with big bellies and fuzzy ears! Click on the picture to make it larger so you
can see the second cub hiding behind the stump.

4 comments:

pam said...

Wonder if they'd eat cabbage?! hahaaha

Very cool story! Will let The Boy read this one for sure. We visited a place near Yellowstone that had Grizzy's in captivity, it was a little commercialized for my taste, but was interesting just the same to learn about the and see them so close. You know, I have been to probably half of the National Parks, all over this country, and of the maybe ten bears or so I have seen in the wild in my life, all of them have been right here in my home county. Go figure. I guess I should maybe stay home to see wildlife?! (We don't have BIG BEARS though!)
I liked reading this, thank you for posting it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kris,

Happy New Year!

Wonderful posts! I have enjoyed them all!

Love this particular one about the 'pet' bear cubs. Although there are 2 viewpoints, both with pros and cons; I agree with yours; that the cubs were / are in major survival need of protection etc. As long as they are "happy", with lots of space and trees / tree bark to 'demolish' etc, great! I think it would be a cruel blow to ever 'release' them to the wild, even if they have not had much human interaction. They are used to their large 'safety net' / 'play pen'. And, as an exhibit, people can learn more about their habits etc.

Have not forgotten about sending you photos of the antlers and some of our Lady Head Vases. My son gave us a digital camera for Christmas; and now it is a matter of learning how to use it, plus deciphering the 'small print' re: directions! LOL!

Talk soon. Have a great day!

God Bless.
Gina

Our Red House said...

What a great story and photo. Do those bears hibernate in winter?

I have seen bears in Australian zoos and they always look too hot. It's wonderful to see one in its natural climate.

Kate

LadiesoftheHouse said...

Pam--this enclosure is not commercialized at all, in fact it's very primitive die to lack of funds and real close to their natural habitat. These will be big bears too when grown.

Gina--the cubs seemed real happy to me and the owners have hired a bear expert to oversee their operation and give advice. She told them they have the best habitat she has ever been to for bears in captivity.

Kate--I asked the same thing! No the bears are too young to hibernate. When they are small they need to much nourishment to hibernate, even if the mom does. They will still drink her milk while she is hibernating in the wild.

I can't imagine these bears in the heat--their coats are amazingly thick.

Kris