Friday, July 6, 2012

Bears and Raptors - Rescue Efforts

Wednesday, June 27th – We visited the ‘Fortress of the Bear’, a new (5 years old)  bear rescue center that has working to rescue orphaned bear cubs, and provide solutions for those problem bears other than just shooting them. This center offers orphaned bear cubs immediate health care and training, while seeking to find permanent placement for them at a zoo or sanctuary. In the past 5 years, they have successfully placed 5 bears in various zoos, but house 5 young bears at their site.

The population of bears on Sitka’s island are Brown bears, or Grizzlies as they are known elsewhere. The Brown bears of Southeast Alaska represent a distinct population, genetically dissimilar for any other bear.They are thought to be descended from a Polar bear population that was stranded in Southeast Alaska following the last ice age. They adapted to the rain forest environment and learned new survival skills. They hunt everything from mountain goats to seals, with fish, of course being a staple. It is this ability to adapt that sometimes brings them into conflict with their urban neighbors.

The adage “A fed bear is a DEAD bear” is the only real recourse that has been available to deal with problem bears, leaving the cubs orphaned, and likely to starve or be killed.

This site is small and in obvious need of funding and more creative habitat for their bears. Nonetheless, the mission is a noble one, and the community education that they provide is valuable. It is important to remember that these orphaned bear cubs would have been shot, had this center not stepped in.

I took a LOT of pictures of these bears…..though these pictures do not have the same feeling as if we had seen these magnificent bears in the wild. This was more of a zoo experience……


These two are 3 year old brothers……they spend most of their time wrestling and playing in the water…..


Mugging for the camera….


Or playing with their toys.  I think this one is checking out his foot through a piece of pipe.


This is their sister. All three of these cubs were orphaned at 6 months old when their mother was shot in self-defense as she chased a resident into his lodge. It is easy to forget that these 500 lb bears are still wild and more dangerous because they have lost their fear of man.


These two are 5 year old brothers who were the first resident of this facility.


They may look all ‘cuddly’ and sweet…..But at 800 and 900 lbs……And they can reach 1200 lbs when fully grown….


With such fearsome claws (and teeth)….they are not to be taken lightly….


So one has to heed all the warning signs!

Next, we visited the Alaska Raptor Center, Alaska’s only full service avian hospital and educational facility. The Raptor center was opened about 20 years ago and is very well staffed and professionally run. Each year, the center treats between 100-200 wild birds with injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to collision with cars, to flying into power lines.


Many of the birds are able to be released back into the wild, and are given some time in the ‘flight training’ room, opened in 2003, that allows the birds to practice their flight skills.


Others, have injuries that are so extensive that they can not be released. These are given an opportunity to be ‘trained’ and accustomed to being handled and around people, and are then used in educational programs.


If unable to be ‘trained’ like this grey owl, the bird is placed in an outdoor enclosure where it can live out its life in a more natural setting.

The Raptor Center handles mostly Bald Eagles, because that is the greatest population, but they also rehabilitate other birds of prey……


Like this Peregrine Falcon or this Kestrel.


And this Barred Owl. All were injured and would have died out in the wild.


This Snowy Owl is getting a little ‘glove time’ with its handler.


And will one day go visit area schools to help with the education…….a ‘wise’ old owl……

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