On our way to visit Yellowstone National Park last month we visited the Grizzly & World Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT. It’s located about a block from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Here’s five reasons why we enjoyed our visit to the Center.
Painted Bison Near the Entrance
I loved the painted bison on display near the Grizzly & World Discovery Center entrance and wondered where it came from. Some online research revealed that it was one of 27 near life-sized cow buffalo statues trucked to West Yellowstone in November of 2006. Artists created a different painted design for each buffalo using one of three themes: Yellowstone National Park, Historic West Yellowstone, or Native America. The West Yellowstone Painted Buffalo statues were auctioned off to the highest bidder in August of 2009. The artist of the bison whose picture I took painted the following on its neck: IN MEMORY OF DONALD C. MORRIS 1941 TO 2007.
When I entered the area containing the bear habitat at the Center, I felt like I was visiting a zoo. A staff member shared why the seven bears housed in the habit now live there. Five of them were orphaned bear cubs and two needed to be isolated because of their inclination to hunt for food in residential communities. As I watched them roam in the large habitat area, I confirmed what I had always suspected: I would not want to meet a bear face-to-face in the woods.
Bear Spray Demonstration
Because we don’t hunt, camp, or hike in the wilderness, I had never heard of bear spray. A staff member gave a bear spray demonstration that included some interesting facts. First, bears aren’t by nature people-eaters. In fact, they don’t want anything to do with people. So when hiking in bear country, it’s better to be in a noisy group that will announce its arrival loudly enough and soon enough for the bear to move away. A mother bear with cubs is the most dangerous of bears, as she will aggressively protect her cubs.
If people come upon a bear unexpectedly, they should raise their hands over their heads, make a lot of noise, and slowly back away. Forget running away, as a bear runs 30 miles an hour and can catch you. When faced with a bear, it’s better to carry a can of bear spray than a gun. Bear spray contains hot peppers so it burns a bear’s lungs and eyes, but does no permanent harm.
Each person in a group should be carrying bear spray, not in a backpack, but either in a hip belt or across the chest belt from which it can be reached within a few seconds of the bear’s approach. Although it cost about $50 a can, don’t worry about the expense of replacing it. Spray for at least seven seconds or until the spray can is empty. The bear will recover in about twenty minutes, so hanging around to take pictures is not an option.
One last important point. Bear spray is a deterrent and not a retardant. Spraying it on your tent or clothes will attract bears, so don’t do it!
Watching the Wolves
We found the wolves full of energy and exciting to watch. The videos shown in the naturalist cabin increased our knowledge of wolves and our appreciation of their place in nature’s survival plan.
Huge Statue of a Fish-Hunting Bear
On the way out of the Center we admired the huge bronze statue of a bear chasing after fish. It reminded us of how much we learned from our visit to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT
Pictures of the Painted Bison of West Yellowstone: http://kleine-snowdrop.blogspot.com/2011/05/painted-bison-of-west-yellowstone.html
Website for Grizzly & World Discovery Center: http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.com/index.php