The American Bear Association Mission

The American Bear Association is dedicated to promoting a better understanding of black bears and all wildlife through education, observation and experience. The ABA accomplishes this through its educational program, which includes an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to observe and study black bears at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary. Through education, The American Bear Association will raise awareness about the needs of the black bear and promote increased tolerance and appreciation for this often misunderstood and misrepresented animal.


  • To protect the wildlife and various habitats found within the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary
  • To facilitate the education of the public regarding black bears and the environment
  • To encourage non-obtrusive research which will increase knowledge of the black bear and its role in the environment


Currently, the primary focus of The American Bear Association is the management and operation of the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is the primary platform from which The American Bear Association’s mission and objectives are accomplished. The Sanctuary consists of 500+ acres of forested land in a remote area of northern Minnesota. A number of bears frequent the site and tolerate the presence of humans within a two-acre clearing at the heart of the property. This situation provides a most unique opportunity to observe the intimate world of the normally shy and reclusive black bear.

Over the years, the black bear has often been viewed as a nuisance and erroneously portrayed as a vicious man-eater. As a result, many people view any encounter with a black bear as a negative experience. While it is agreed that they are powerful, strong, and potentially dangerous, black bears are rarely aggressive. With a growing number of people moving into once remote areas and critical bear habitat, the probability of human/bear encounters has increased. Unfortunately, confrontations often result in the unnecessary death of the bear due to unfounded fears, inexperience, or a lack of tolerance. One way to curtail negative encounters is to promote a change in human attitudes through education. Only through education will people develop a greater respect and appreciation for all our natural resources and allow people and bears to peacefully coexist.

Black bears are wide ranging animals requiring a great diversity of habitat types. They are considered umbrella species. Our curriculum encompasses the entire ecosystem in which the bear lives. By increasing awareness about the habitat requirements of the black bear, people will also learn that by protecting the bear’s needs, a whole range of other species will benefit as well.

The bears at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary enable us to reach people who may not otherwise be interested in wildlife management and/or conservation issues. The charismatic black bear is an excellent starting point from which to attract the public’s attention and create an interest in learning more about wildlife, conservation, and natural resource management.

Finally, The American Bear Association believes the incredible experience of viewing black bears at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary can truly make a difference on behalf of this remarkable animal. Visitors will not only go away with a new appreciation for the black bear, but also for the natural resources that support an entire array of wildlife. Public education is the key to the black bear’s continued existence, particularly in light of today’s continuous loss of habitat and ever increasing human population. With time, the activities of The American Bear Association will expand, but the primary mission will always remain “promoting the well being of the black bear through a better understanding.”


  1. Tens of thousands of visitors are drawn to the Sanctuary each summer to observe the bears first-hand
  2. Nearly 200,000 people visit our website annually to learn about black bears, peaceful coexistence, and how to prevent negative encounters
  3. Dozens of college students and volunteers from across the United States and from around the world spend their summers at the Sanctuary, studying the bears
  4. Photographers and film crews, both foreign and domestic, have found the Sanctuary to be “the best place in North America to photograph wild black bears in their natural habitat”
  5. The Sanctuary has a positive economic impact on the surrounding rural community
  6. A group of wild black bears acclimated to human presence provides unprecedented potential for scientific research, valuable to the conservation and management of the species