Midwest Living Review
The North American Bear Center offers a glimpse into the lives of these much-maligned animals. The center seeks to debunk myths about the violent nature of bears, which sometimes can be frightened by even a chipmunk. The center opened in 2007 with the goal of educating the public about bears and to end practices, such as bounties, trapping and poison, designed to eradicate them. (All eight bear species around the world are listed as vulnerable, threatened or endangered.) The staff works to conserve bear habitats and to rehabilitate injured bears so they can be returned to the wild. Three captive bears inhabit the center: Ted, the huge male; Honey, the female, who's a bit cranky; and Lucky, the cub who likes to climb and wrestle. They live in the center's forested 2-acre enclosure and can be observed from glass windows inside the center or from a great outdoor terrace. (Keep in mind, if you visit in winter, the bears will be hibernating.) The center has a number of intriguing exhibits, including one that allows you to experience a bear's strength; another lets you study a bear skeleton; and videos show a mother and cub playing, a bear digging a cave and bears hunting for food. Programs explore bear language, food and myths. Children can play junior biologist or participate in animated skits, such as "My Paw's Bigger than Your Paw." There are nature hikes, fossil studies and information on the how research bears are tracked. Photographers can take close-up shots of the bears for a $25 fee. The center is the perfect companion to another Ely-based wildlife facility, the International Wolf Center, though families should realize that paying admission for both attractions can get pretty expensive.