Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

Our last full day of vacation was another busy one. We had planned a trip to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, one of the only touristy kind of things we did. I couldn't pass up the chance to see wolves and bears up close, and to gather some material for my artwork. Of all the animals we had wanted to see in Yellowstone N.P., bears--either black or brown--were the ones that we missed.

The Discovery Center is a non-profit organization that takes in animals who, for one reason or another, cannot be in the wild. Many of the bears (they had eight when we were there) were cubs orphaned when their mothers were shot after becoming habitual garbage eaters. The wolves are captive bred. I was just on their website (www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.com) and it looks like they have a bunch of new wolves. The Center was actually started by (I believe) a family in the area and was run privately. When the funds ran out, the community took the facility over and turned it into a non-profit, complete with educational displays, classes and, of course, great animal viewing opportunities.

The wonderful thing about the layout of the center is that you have unobstructed views of the animals. The center was nearly empty at 8am (gotta get there early with the hot weather) so I was able to stand on the top of the bleachers and get some great shots.

The center does its best to keep the bears entertained. Only two to three are let out into the pen at one time. Between groups staff will go out and hide food under logs and rocks so the bears have to go searching for it. The public can sign up to do this too, but we passed.

The enclosure included a large pool with a waterfall, and the bears were in and out of it all morning.

There are occasionally confrontations, especially if one bear wants to be where another bear is. They are mostly bluster, but are fun to watch.


I love the water flying in this shot.

The vanquished foe.

They have a sheet near the bear exhibit where folks can post bear sightings within the park. I was looking it over when I was struck by one particular post, from 1:30 pm the day before: "Female Grizzly with two cubs, north side of Mt. Washburn." I stared at the post for a while, thinking about where I had been the day before, mid-afternoon--walking, alone, down the north side of Mt. Washburn. I never saw any bears, though if you remember the pile of scat there were certainly signs of bears. I wondered, was she just over that ridge, the one that blocked my view and made me so uneasy?

After watching the bears for a while we moved over to the wolf enclosure. It was nice to get a view of them up close after seeing them in the wild.

The wolves were less testy. As pack animals they were not so confrontational with each other. I do have a hard time with animals in pens, especially ones who are wide ranging species. They pace around and look always unsettled. I have to remind myself that these animals serve a purpose, to enrich and educate the public, to help get people to care about the ones who live outside the fences.

The viewing area for the wolves was walled deck that jutted out into the enclosure. It allowed for some great close up shots.

Inside the center are some wonderful educational exhibits. Having worked on some murals and exhibits with Lori, I can really appreciate the work that goes into making these look natural.

I like that they're not behind glass.

We stayed for a while, hoping the captive wolves would howl for us, but they never did. Perhaps they did not want to spoil my memory of the wolves of Hayden Valley.

Our bags were packed, and we were ready to start the drive back to Jackson Hole. We planned one more stop before leaving the park, so we bid the wolves a fond adieu and hit the road.

Next: Hot springs and the lone coyote

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