Bear Aware Day

(May 20, 2020) At 10 on a Saturday morning folks were lined up two or three deep on the platform above one of two large brown bear habitats at The Fortress of the Bear, a bear rescue center for orphaned cubs. Kids were standing on plastic milk boxes for a better view and little ones were on dad’s shoulders.  The fortress planned to demonstrate how “bear proof” bear proof garbage containers really were.  It was Bear Aware Day at the Fortress.

In past years the bears did a good job of popping open the garbage containers, some of them in short order, although one took almost 20 minutes last year.  That is the one that our son Kevin had bought for their home in Eagle River.  While we were looking after grandson Elias (Kev and Shannon were at an out of state wedding) a bear tried to get into the can, became frustrated, and kicked it down the hill. There was anticipation in the crowd and, to be sure, they would be rooting for the bears. 

The fortress has two brown bear enclosures that are joined by a breezeway that can be closed at both ends so it can be used as a pen, at either end so it can be used as a den (temporarily, the real dens are across the enclosure), or left open as a passageway.  In the enclosure where the garbage cans were going to be set up the Seward Sisters, Nuka and Nikiski, a pair of 5-year-olds were wandering around.  The plan was to den the sisters, set up the garbage cans in that enclosure, and let the three larger bears, Toby, Lucky and Chaik, who were in the second enclosure, through the breezeway to dismantle the garbage cans.

The Seward Sisters would not cooperate.  They did not want to go into their den.  The keepers enticed them with all sorts of food.  Ones sister finally went into her den.  The other would not.  So instead, they tried to entice her into the breezeway.  The handlers kept putting food into the breezeway just out of reach, but the bear had a longer reach than anyone expected.  At times she had just one foot in the habitat, leg stretched while reaching for the food in the breezeway and would triumphantly pop out with a bunch of grapes or a steak. 

After two hours they gave up and brought one of the garbage cans up to the viewing area and tipped it into the habitat.  On the way down it flipped upside down, which released the latch (as designed to allow the garbage truck to mechanically dump it).  Carrots and strawberries fell out giving the bear more to eat. 

After that final feast the recalcitrant sister went into the breezeway.  This allowed the keepers to set up the garbage cans properly.  However, since one of the sisters was in the breezeway, they could not move the three larger bears (who had been enjoying themselves and working up an appetite wrestling in the other habitat) through the breezeway into the other habitat to confront the garbage cans. 

Since they couldn’t get the bigger bears into the enclosure with the garbage cans, they let the Seward Sisters into the enclosure. The sisters had been eating all morning so showed only mild interest in the locked garbage cans.  One of them knocked the can into the water and batted it around like a toy while it floated, jumped on it, bounced around for a while

(Here is a link where you cee the Facebook Video I posted of the bears wrestling.  I think you will enjoy it You don’t need to be my Facebook Friend to watch it.)

(Here are links to Facebook Videos of the bears playing with, but not opening, the garbage cans.)

Finally, the sister got bored and walked away.  By then most of the spectators had left as well.  I had a great time.

There is a separate habitat for the three black bears, Smoky, Bandit and Tuliaan,  For being denned all winter they certainly look rolly polly.

2 thoughts on “Bear Aware Day

  1. I enjoy your posts so much! Interesting and informative! Great pictures of the bears.

  2. Thanks for sending this, Rick. I never knew this was around Sitka. We will go there on our next visit! Looked up The Fortress of the Bear to find out all their info. Very impressed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.