Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, Montana

The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center has eight grizzlies that, for one reason or another, were not able to be left in the wild, and were brought to the Center to live. It is a not-for-profit center, using donations and admissions to run the center as well as build additions to house more animals. Their biggest grizzly, Sam, is let out into the bear habitat by himself. Sam wandered into a fishing village with his sister in 1996 after his mother disappeared. Because he is from coastal Alaska, he is much larger than Yellowstone grizzlies - weighing in at 1,000 lbs.

Yes, I'm real

In this picture Sam is scrounging among the rocks for food.  Soon after we got there, the Center had about 30 children help to put food out for Sam to eat. The Center hides the bears' food in the rocks and trees so they have to search for the food, such as they would if they were in the wild. This keeps them entertained and active, so they don't just lay around all day. The Ravens are all over the habitat and the bears tolerate them, but sometimes chase them away.

We missed the other bears the first day, and had to go back a second day to see the others.  For the rest of the first day, we visited the Wolf Den and Aviary. I cannot tell you the names of the separate wolves, but there are six wolfs altogether. The wolves are also here because of circumstances that do not allow them to live in the wild. 

Some fun facts about wolves: (1) Wolf breeding in Yellowstone is usually in February; pups are born in April; they spend nine weeks living in a protected den. (2) after nine weeks they move to an outside "home" base that serves the entire pack. While the pack hunts, one stays behind to "babysit." (3) During the summer, the young pups learn about pack structure by playing and interacting with the other wolves. By early fall, the pups are old enough to travel. (4) To eat, the young pups lick the faces of the older pack members, which causes the wolf to regurgitate food.  Has dog ever licked your face? 

There are a few raptors in the Center, some of which were a Hawk and Vulture:

This is Keek, a Rough-legged Hawk. Keek sustained injuries to her right wing, and despite the best efforts of the rehabilitation center, her wing did not heal, so she is not able to fly or survive in the wild. 

Lewis is a Turkey Vulture. He was brought to the Center as a nestling with fractures to some of his left wing bone. The bones had begun to heal out of place, and as a result did not heal well and he is unable to fly. 

The next birds we saw were a Golden Eagle and three Bald Eagles:

This is Aquila, a Golden Eagle. She was hit by a propane truck in 1990. Her injuries prevent her from surviving in the wild.

The three Bald Eagles are Josh, Zack, and Jordan. Josh was shot in the left wing resulting in badly fractured bones and lead particles lodged in his wing. Unfortunately, the wing needed to be amputated at the wrist. Zack was found in 2006 with a severely dislocated wing. His wing was set back in place but it will never be strong enough for him to fly. Jordan arrived at the Center in 2014 suffering from lead poisoning and can no longer survive in the wild due to limited flight mobility. Because Eagles frequently scavenge on dead animals, they are at higher risk for lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause permanent neurological damage, as it did in Jordan.

The other bears in the Center are brought out in segments, and even then we did not get to see all of them. We arrived back at the Center in time to see Spirit & 101 for a few minutes.  Spirit arrived in 2002 after being relocated six times in efforts to divert her desire to obtain human food near the resort community of Whitefish, Montana. Born in 1996, she weighs about 350 lbs. 101 lived in the Yellowstone Ecosystem for 20 years and raised many sets of cubs. She was removed from the wild in 2002. She weighs around 350 lbs.

They were then removed to their inside dens at which time the Handlers went into the habitat to put out food for the next group of bears to come out. One of the things they hid was a bird feeder, put high into a tree.  Below are pictures of Coram getting the feeder out of the tree, as well as the other bears foraging for the apples and vegetables put out by the handlers.  Coram  was born in 2008. He became habituated to human food and had to be removed from the wild. He arrived at the Center in 2011 and weighs just about 600 lbs.

In the habitat with Coram were Roosevelt and Grant. Roosevelt and Grant are brothers from Yellowstone Park born in 2011. They arrived at the center that fall after their mother had to be euthanized out of concerns for public safety. Grant is 550 lbs. and is darker than his more blonde brother who weighs about 600 lbs.

The poaching of bears is a big problem for the North American Black Bear, and also those in China where bears are killed for their gall bladders. Whole black bear gallbladders sell between $2,000 to $22,000 each in the Far East, and $1,500 on the U.S. West Coast. At a 1983 public auction in South Korea, an illegally killed wild bear's meat sold for $1,830, while its fresh gallbladder sold for $55,000.  In 1988, 136 pounds of bear gallbladders illegally exported from China to Japan were worth almost $4 million.

What are gallbladders used for? According to some reports, people may mix bear gall with the powder of rhinoceros horn to use as an aphrodisiac. Taken internally, bear ball is used to treat liver and digestive ailments, jaundice, infections, convulsions, dysentery, parasites, and tumors, as well as to reduce fever, kill germs, neutralize body toxins, and relieve pain. The medicinal use of bear gallbladders began in China more than 5,000 years ago. It is still prescribed legally in China, Korea, and Japan. 

Grizzly Bear Trap

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