ELY – As the ambassador bears at the North American Bear Center are enjoying their long winter naps, staff members are putting the finishing touches on new exhibits and making plans for the 2019 …
ELY – As the ambassador bears at the North American Bear Center are enjoying their long winter naps, staff members are putting the finishing touches on new exhibits and making plans for the 2019 season.
NABC senior director of operations Scott Edgett recently outlined the varied improvements and additions that will be ready at the facility this spring.
A new biologist, Spencer Peter, joined the NABC staff last year after attending school at Vermilion Community College and Bemidji State University to earn a degree in wildlife biology. “He is in charge of our growing education programming,” Edgett said. “We now utilize our new fully-functioning Hope Learning Center.”
Visitors will be greeted at the NABC with a new gift shop that has doubled in size. “We have close to a hundred unique ambassador bear items now,” he said.
A new exhibit highlighting 50 years of bear research by Dr. Lynn Rogers is set to open this spring at the Bear Center. “The reason behind this new addition to the NABC is that it puts validity in all the research that is here,” Edgett said. “The entire body of study work highlighted here was initiated by Dr. Rogers, and this whole place, opened in 2007, is an outgrowth of his work.”
A grand-opening event for the Rogers exhibit is set for July 19-21, during the tenth anniversary of the Lily Pad Picnic that celebrates the first-ever webcam-viewed birth of a bear cub. “We have fans from all over the world that watched that event and come here to celebrate year after year,” he said.
The grand-opening and expanded picnic will be held at the NABC, located on Hwy. 169 just west of Ely, and will include many special events, including live music, food trucks, silent auction, and special programs. “This will be a huge event for us,” Edgett said.
The centerpiece of the latest growth project has been the completion of the Cub Room, a children’s education and play area that has been under construction for the past two years at the Bear Center.
Cub Room visitors are greeted by a large white pine tree trunk in the center of the room, modeled after a local tree that was struck by lightning. “They molded that trunk and made a model for us,” Edgett said. “Lynn (Rogers) thought it was real. Check out the mom and cubs in the canopy.”
“The cool thing is that the Cub Room was all put together by donations, particularly from the Give to the Max Day,” he said. The project cost about $150,000 and was completed by Antlers by Klaus, a Wisconsin company who also worked on the Four Seasons and Camping with Bears displays at the NABC.
“The Cub Room allows our little visitors to have fun while learning about bears and wildlife,” Edgett said. “A reading area, interactive bear den cave, and hi-def audio-visual capability, all in a forest setting, focuses on the cub-mother interaction. It is a very realistic area. Even the floor is made of special material to make it feel like you are walking on a forest floor. It turned out fantastic with the space we had to work in.”
When the center’s ambassador bears wake in the spring, they’ll soon have a new pond area, thanks to Ely’s Low Impact Excavators and a $50,000 project to expand that area. “We will get working on that as soon as the frost is gone and they can start digging. That should be open this spring,” Edgett said. “Our four ambassador bears, Ted, Lucky, Holly and Tasha will enjoy a new, deeper pond, and our visitors will be able to watch them as they take a dip.”
New programming is also in the works for 2019. Monarch butterfly tagging and releasing will be initiated by Spencer Peter and should be a popular part of the student education programming.
New and improved trail cams are already up and running. “We have seen many animal footprints in the snow,” Peter said. “And there are lots of bucks in the area.” The nature trails around the Bear Center will also be expanded and improved this spring, Edgett said.
“And future expansion calls for a larger enclosure for the ambassador bears as we grow our acreage.”