Board of Directors
Steph Horner: President and Executive Director
Steph is originally from Blaine, Minnesota but has lived in Orr, Minnesota year-round now since 2017. She has a bachelors in Ecology, Field Biology with an emphasis in Wildlife Biology from St. Cloud State University. Steph actually started her journey with the sanctuary as an intern in 2014! She went into the wildlife field to hopefully work with bears so when it came time to find an internship, she did a google search for bear internships and the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary popped up! Despite living in central Minnesota her entire life, she had never heard of the sanctuary. She did a 3 ½ month internship and fell in love with the bears, the small town of Orr, the like-minded people she got to work with and the beautiful Northwoods. As her internship came to an end in late August, she didn’t want to leave and even considered putting her education on hold to help the staff close for the season. She did end up going home to finish her schooling, but immediately got back in touch with sanctuary staff to inquire about open staff positions. It just so happened that the sanctuary would be hiring for a few positions for the 2015 season. Since she was close to graduating, she applied in hopes of being brought on for any position. Since she wasn’t done with school yet, she was offered the interim director position in 2015 and then was promoted as the executive director in 2016. She was asked to take on the presidential role (in addition to staying in the executive director role) in June 2022. Steph says “I still have a lot to learn in my new role but I love the new challenges and opportunities the role offers! I am passionate about not just working with the bears that visit our sanctuary but also about connecting people with bears. There is nothing more fulfilling to me than teaching people that peaceful coexistence with bears (and all wildlife) is possible.”
A native of Orr, MN, Ross grew up with his family running Cabin O’ Pines Resort on Pelican Lake. Ross graduated with a Business Administration degree from Illinois State University in 2008 while spending off-season winters with his family in the Chicagoland area. Ross lives in Orr now full time and in addition to running the resort, he also sells resorts for a specialty broker called Minnesota Resort Sales. When he’s not volunteering with the ABA, managing Cabin O’ Pines, or selling real estate you’ll probably find him flying his airplane, playing guitar, and singing around the campfire with his german shepherd Luna or fishing out under the sunset on Pelican Lake.
Angie Page: Treasurer
Angie is from Hurricane, WV. She and her husband, Ernie, visited the sanctuary as visitors in August of 2017. During their stay, they found out about volunteering and began as volunteers in May of 2018. She and Ernie have been volunteering for 2 weeks every year since. Angie loves cooking for everyone during her stay and everyone has their favorite meals that they request. Angie has been in the role of Treasurer since August of 2022.
Robert Babich: Secretary
Robby Babich is from Mountain Iron, MN and resides there with his son Austin. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2008 with a degree in Finance and now works work in the financial services industry as a Financial Advisor. Away from the office he enjoys spending time outdoors with family and friends, hockey, and curling.
His history with the Sanctuary goes back over 30 years when his family would take him to go visit Vince and the bears as a young boy. These early visits cultivated a respect and admiration for the black bear that he still has to this day. The American Bear Association does a fantastic job of operating the Sanctuary, educating the public, and honoring the legacy that Vince Shute left behind. He joined the Board of Directors in 2018 and currently serves as Secretary. The continued success of the America Bear Association is very important to him, and he is so fortunate to be a part of such a great organization.
Karen was born in Connecticut, probably long before anyone reading this (says she). In her early 20’s she moved to Philadelphia where she worked in John Wanamakers display department. A few years later she moved to NYC, where she also worked in visual merchandising and retail. While in NYC they often did floats for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. She then went to custom interior decorating on a freelance basis. In 1980 she moved to St Paul MN, where she became a Registered Nurse. Bears always played an important part in her life as her dad brought a teddy bear to the hospital for her the day she was born, and she still have that bear to this day. In her early years she organized an event for every Saturday morning, the event was “Saturday Morning Tea with Bears and Sisters. |After tea, she led a parade around the dining table singing “Teddy Bear Picnic” while beating an old tin coffee can with spoons. Of course “BALTHY” her 1st bear always attended these breakfast teas, along with any of my other bears that were easily accessible at the time. As she grew older, she read anything she could that involved bears. So it isn’t any wonder that she eventually heard about Vince, which of course prompted her first visit to Orr MN in 1991. And that first visit made a huge difference in her life. She went back to visit every chance she got, with every visit she realized more and more that Vince needed help with his bears. She dropped a couple of days from her work schedule so she could go up more. The following year, she actually changed her work schedule to work 5 days in a row and have 9 days off every 2 weeks. During her 5 working days, she would always pick up a couple of double shifts. This allowed her to be almost full time and was therefore able to keep health insurance and other benefits, while also allowing her much more time with the bears. A couple of years later she met Bill and Klari Lea who equally shared a love of bears. Vince begged the three of them to help do something that would enable his place to become what it is today and to encourage it to grow. This was not an easy task, but one we took on in spite of some concerns and trepidations. Karen retired early to initially be the hands-on person on the grounds, while Bill and Klari managed the legal and business aspects of our endeavor. In 1995, Karen, Bill and Klari finally emerged as founders of The American Bear Association, which oversees the running of the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary.
Tim Halvorson: Board Member
Tim has always loved wildlife and nature and when he heard about Vince and the bears in late summer of 1994 he came up the next weekend to see what it was all about. He fell in love with Vince and the bears. He came back up the next spring in May with his 2 boys and found out it was now a sanctuary. He decided to come back up again in June to volunteer and has been with the sanctuary ever since. He has always loved photography, especially wildlife and nature! He was asked to help out on the first photo workshop around 1997 and then was involved with helping out on our photo workshops and doing his own photo workshops for many, many years.
He has volunteered doing everything from picking up scat to briefly being in charge, cooking, cutting trees that have blocked the road, preparing bear food, feeding bears and doing educational talks. He also helped construct the original deck and pole barn. With the help of another volunteer, he ran the Twin Cities chapter of the American Bear Association for 5 years, which focused on securing food donations for the bears and organizing volunteers from the Twin Cities area to come and bring the food we had stored.
Philip Stubley is from Newcastle, England. After seeing wild black bears in Canada, he became interested in their feeding habits and how bears/human coexist together. In his research, he came across the ABA and knew he had to see it for himself. He first became involved as a volunteer at the ABA in 2014. Since then he has tried to make it back every summer to volunteer and support the ABA and promote the mission of education, coexistence and understanding. He fell in love with the bear known as Elsa in 2014 and enjoys seeing her return year after year. From 2014-2018 he visited the sanctuary every August-September and in 2016 stayed through to October.
2018 was the first year he was unable to help out at the sanctuary but he had a good excuse. He was away in Borneo, Indonesia and has been involved with various sun bear related NGO’s in Indonesia since then. Sun bears are a smaller species to black bears but are one of the most threatened. He has worked in various ways designing and supervising the construction of bear enclosures, assisted with husbandry/nutrition and helping raise over 15 orphaned sun bear cubs. Most recently, he has been helping the Sumatran Sun Bear Team design a new enclosure due to be built this year.
Luckily, he was able to make time to volunteer at the ABA in 2019. However, due to travel restrictions he had to wait an agonizing two years before he could finally return to the sanctuary in May/June 2022. There he took an active role helping as a grounds manager and trained new staff/interns and got the sanctuary set up for the season. Philip says, “It was great to see the arrival of the spring cubs and experience a different time of year. Being part of the board is a privilege and I love being able to help the bears from afar.”
Staff and Volunteers
Ryan Horner: Chief Operations Manager
Ryan grew up in a small, rural town outside of Grand Forks, ND. He has always loved animals, which is why he pursued a degree in biology from Mayville University in North Dakota. He got involved with the sanctuary as a volunteer in 2014 and 2015 and, like so many, instantly fell in love with the bears. He became staff at the end of the season in 2015 and has been with the sanctuary since. In his free time he likes to hike, read, kayak and just be outdoors! He also has many favorite bears but when pressed to pick just one, he said Kenai because he is so laid back and has such a quirky personality.
Melia Marquez: Sanctuary Coordinator
Mia currently resides in Westminister, CO for the winter months, when she isn’t living on site with the bears! Mia came to us first as an intern in 2019. She loved it so much that she returned in 2020 to volunteer for the entire season, which runs May-October! Due to covid-19, one of our managers couldn’t get here, so Mia was promoted to a manager position! She graduated with a degree in Zoology from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. In her free time, she is playing soccer, doing anything outside, or hiking with her cat. Her favorite bear is Kenai (aka the love of her life she says) for many reasons, but mostly because he is the sweetest, most handsome, curious bear! Mia says, ” I am so excited to be rejoining the staff this year because over the last few years the sanctuary has been my home away from home and the people and the bears there are like my family!”
Jenna Bradburn: Visitor Center Coordinator
Jenna started her time at the sanctuary as an intern in 2019 before returning as a volunteer in 2022. She’s thrilled to be returning again in 2023, this time as the Visitor Center Coordinator! Jenna graduated with a degree in Recreation Management and a minor in Animal Studies from Appalachian State University. She wants to combine her studies and passion for animals to help educate people about wildlife and the impact they have on our lives. In her free time Jenna enjoys reading, painting, hiking, or any past time to stay active! Jenna’s favorite bear seen at the sanctuary is Hades because he always seems like he’s up to something and he is just all around adorable!
Grace Tedrick: Intern & Program Coordinator
Grace was an intern in 2019 and is back for another summer at the sanctuary. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Tech. Originally from Virginia, she currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Grace loves to hike, backpack, bird watch, or any activity outside. Her favorite bird on the sanctuary is the pileated woodpecker. Grace is so excited for another year of creating memorable experiences in nature and sharing her knowledge and passion with others.
Nancy Baumann: Accounting
Nancy Baumann took over as bookkeeper in September of 2022. She is originally from Bemidji, Minnesota and moved to this area in 2020 with her fiance, Paul. They love outdoor activities which include skiing (downhill and cross country),snowshoeing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Nancy recently picked up fly fishing and fly tying. The proximity to the Boundary Waters, Voyager National Park and the world class fishing lakes makes this area a mecca for the outdoor activities they love.
Nancy first visited the bear sanctuary when her & Paul moved to the area. One can’t help but be fascinated and intrigued by this unique opportunity to observe, photograph and learn about black bears. Nancy has 18 years of bookkeeping experience and when the part time job came up….it was a perfect fit for her lifestyle. nancy say, “It has been a privilege to meet and get to know board members and employees who have a shared passion and desire to see this sanctuary preserved and grow in its unique, educational opportunity to learn and grow with these beautiful bears”.
- Eric Tetens, Ernie & Angie Page: Photo Workshop Instructors
- James Zahorsky: CPA