Myth #6: Once a bear has tasted human food, it won’t eat wild food any more.

Believe it or not, bears prefer natural, wild food unless it is difficult to find and/or human food is too easy to get. We get asked about this myth often at the sanctuary since we provide our bears with a SUPPLEMENTAL diet. However, during seasons of an abundance of berries, hazelnut and acorns, bear activity at the sanctuary significantly decreases or is nonexistent altogether. My personal favorite example of this is regarding a bear named Peanut. She is 31 this year and has been coming to the sanctuary since she was a spring cub. She too is gone for peak berry season during the month of July as she prefers to forage naturally when food is abundant!

Even bears that regularly eat human food/waste still prefer to eat natural foods whenever they’re plentiful. Conflicts usually increase when natural foods run out – a good time to be more vigilant of bear attractants on your property; such as bird feed, pet food, fruit trees/berry bushes, barbecue grease and compost.

Photo credit: Melia Marquez. Athena & her cub enjoy a nut mix at the sanctuary


Myth #5: Bears are unpredictable.
Bears are very expressive and use body language and many vocalizations to show their intentions. They will specifically use huffs, jaw pops and will swat the ground to let you know if you have gotten to close to them, made them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I am often asked if I am afraid while walking with the bears that visit our sanctuary. My go-to response is, bears are much more predictable than people if you know how to read them, so no, I would prefer to walk with 30 bears than be in a room with 30 people. Learning about bear behavior can be beneficial to people who live or recreate in bear country.

Photo credit: Me, Steph. Photo is of Jade, taken in 2014


Myth #4 about American Black Bears: Relocating or killing a black bear will solve a conflict.
Relocating an individual bear often just temporarily solves a human-bear conflict. If people feel threatened by a bears presence in their neighborhood, that bear may be killed for public safety. However, neither of these options are permanent, effective or long-term solutions. Relocated bears often try to return home where they feel comfortable. Many are killed crossing roadways along the way. If they do survive the journey back, they usually resume their conflict behavior. IF that bear does not come back, there are plenty other bears in the area that may be lured in as long as attractants remain, thus the vicious cycle remains.
Bears that hang around neighborhoods or businesses are symptoms of a larger problem. Their continued presence means that they are likely finding and eating unsecured garbage, birdseed from feeders, pet foods, or other non-natural, human-provided foods.
If you eliminate the food sources, you can eliminate the problem and help keep people safe and bears wild.
Photo credit: Ernie Page
Myth # 3 about American Black Bears: A black bear standing on its hind legs is about to charge.
Bears have an eyesight that is comparable to humans. In the animal kingdom, that rates pretty low as far as sight goes. Therefore, if you see a bear standing on it’s hind legs, it is simply trying to get a better idea as to what you are. This is not just done by sight alone. A bear will also use smell (their best sense) and its hearing to better understand what you are and decide if you are a potential threat.
Photo credit: Melia Marquez

We are in day 2 of our myth series! Todays Myth: A mother black bear with cubs is always dangerous

It’s rare for mother black bears to attack a person in defense of cubs, because her cubs can easily climb trees when they feel threatened. In fact, mothers with cubs were involved in only 3 of the 60 killings by black bears across America since 1900, and none of those 3 killings appeared to be in defense of cubs. One of the first things a cub learns from mom when they leave the den is how to climb a tree for safety to avoid danger, therefore they have an escape route that she has taught them.

Your best action is to be calm and give her plenty of room, even if it means you have to change your planned hike or other activity. Never keep approaching her, even if the cubs are in a tree.

Photo credit: Melia Marquez


A black bear with its nose buried in a food container eats trash out of a residential garbage bag in summertime

We will be starting a new series about some common myths out there surrounding American Black Bears and their behaviors. Todays myth: Black bears that wander into campsites, towns or cottage communities are dangerous.

There are many people that live in or near bear country, like us here in Orr, MN. In these areas, it is not uncommon to have bears walk through your neighborhood, school yard or even in ‘town’ as they search for food. Guess what!? This is natural bear behavior! Yes, you read that right. YOU live in their habitat, not the other way around. If people have stored their food, bird feeders, pet food and garbage properly, a bear will likely keep on passing through. However, when bears are rewarded with these unnatural foods (like the items listed above) in neighborhoods, they MAY eventually lose their fear of people, which CAN become a risk to public safety.

Photo credit: bearwise.org

Hall and Oates were also a pair of cubs that stuck together for 2 years. You may remember them as we have spent lots of time talking about them. They are sons to Darla, one the bears part of our collared bear study from 2016-2019. They were born in 2017 and have a very similar story to Hades and Athena in yesterdays post. After they were disbursed by Darla in the Spring of 2018, they came and went together and often shared food sites (as seen here in the first image). They also left for the season together in 2018 and came back together in the spring 0f 2019. This again suggests that they either denned together or denned very closely to one another. Sadly, Oates was the only one that came in this past season. It is possible that Hall just moved out of the area and established a territory elsewhere.
Continuing on from yesterdays post about cubs sticking together.
Hades (pictured on the left with a watermelon, his favorite) and Athena (with cubs) were born in 2015 and were dispersed by their mother in June of 2016. As cubs, they were a handful together. Always exploring, climbing things they shouldn’t be and getting into trouble. When their mom dispersed them in 2016, they stuck together, which is not uncommon. However, they came in TOGETHER the spring of 2017, suggesting they denned together. This is less common. They hung out all season together and were seen leaving together that fall. Again, suggesting they might den together, which would be even more unusual, but so interesting! And then, THEY CAME IN TOGETHER IN THE SPRING OF 2018! That season, they finally put some distance between each other and it became rare to see them together. It is possible that Athena became sexually mature at that point, which would explain the separation. Athena gave birth to her first litter of 2 in January of 2020. The sweet family is pictured below. This will be my 8th season working with the bears and STILL they never cease to amaze me!
Photo credit: Mia Marquez, both taken summer of 2020
Behavior: Sharing
While we do not have an image to capture this, we have observed adult mother bears sharing resources within a habitat with their adult daughters at the sanctuary. Studies show that this IS common. When yearlings are disbursed, females are allowed to stay within or near their mothers territories. They do so, so they can share resources, which in return gives them both more resources for them and their offspring. Pictured below is Peanut and her daughter, Cashew. We have observed Peanut share food at the sanctuary with Cashew over a year AFTER she was disbursed (kicked out of the house). 
Photo credit: Peanut and Cashew, by Bill Lea
Behaviors: Sharing
While it is uncommon for adult bears that are not of relation to share food, it does happen. When we see sharing occur at the sanctuary amongst adult bears that are not related, it is almost always during mating season or during hyperphagia. Sometimes mates will spend a week or two together and they will take a break from mating to forage together. During hyperphagia, bears are so driven by food that they will share because the importance of gaining weight and surviving another year overrides their instincts to defend what is theirs. The photo I took below was a cell phone image from 2017 of two adult females, Peanut & Grizzette, sharing food in August. At that point, hyperphagia had just begun. We do not believe that they are related. If I recall this memory correctly, only a little grumbling was exchanged between them before they both plopped down to devour the nuts.
Bear behavior: Playing
Today’s post goes along with playing, but also a bears natural curiosity. Bears are constantly putting things in their mouths, exploring whether or not items are or are not food. Sometimes the items are eaten, sometimes they become a play thing like todays photo.
Bears have a Jacobson organ, which allows them to lift scent with their saliva to detect pheromones and other chemical messages. In addition to this, they have a jelly bean-shaped organ called the Kilham organ. This allows them to identify aromatic molecules. This essentially allows them to taste with their nose cavities. To determine what items are, they will either mouth an item to determine if it is edible, or they will open their mouths to collect the scent of something to determine if it is food. Bears also use this to identify individual bears. Our upcoming posts will explore this further, so stay tuned!
Bear Behavior: Playing continued
One of the many things that amaze me about bears is their ability to play from a tree! I have observed cubs in the topmost part of the tree canopy playing with each other in what appears to be a form of ‘tag’. I have also observed cubs leap from one tree to the next, playing ‘keep away’ from a sibling. Even crazier, I have observed cubs leap over a sibling to climb higher in a tree. While this behavior is fun to watch, it is a bit nerve-racking as a fall from the tree could result in a serious injury or death, although this is quite rare since cubs are excellent tree climbers and have amazing balance!
Photo credit: Ernie Page
Behavior: Playing continued…
While it may look like this cub is eating from the tree, that is not what is taking place. Yes, American Black Bears do eat the buds from trees in the Spring, however, this is not the case in todays photo.
Often times, mother bear will communicate to her cubs that they need to climb a tree for safety. In todays photo, mom sent her cubs up the tree so she could go eat without having to keep a close eye on her cubs. She ended up being gone longer than the cubs would’ve liked. The cubs began to get a bit restless and therefore, began to play with the branches in the tree to entertain themselves. This behavior continued for about 30 minutes before the cub then began to cry out to mom, communicating his/her boredom. The cries went unanswered for sometime by mom, as she knew the cubs were in no danger. Eventually mom came back and made gulps (a vocalization used between moms and cubs), communicating that it was time to come down and leave for the day.
Photo credit: Ernie Page
This winter I would like to dedicate lots of time towards looking at and analyzing bear behavior, as that is what our sanctuary is all about! We are so lucky to have WILD bears visiting our sanctuary, doing WILD things! So with that being said, lets jump in!
Are these bears dancing, playing or fighting? Stay tuned for tomorrows post for the answer!
11/3/20 Yesterday we asked if the bears above were dancing, playing or fighting. Those who said playing are correct! While media portrays bears in a light in which they are always aggressive, ‘growling’ and fighting, this is not typically the case. Bears spend a significant amount of time playing from the time in which they are cubs through early adulthood. Playing establishes bonds with siblings and other bears that are potential playmates and are near their age, it helps develop social attitudes and coordination!
Playing doesn’t have to just be seen between siblings or bears close to each others age. When moms have only one cub it is not uncommon for mom to become a playmate too!
Playing doesn’t always have to occur with another bear. Stay tuned to learn about other forms of playing.
Photo credit: Ernie Page
American ‘Black’ Bears can vary in color significantly. This is a photo of a bear we have named Moonshine that is considered to be a blonde color phase. American Black bears can be black, chocolate brown, auburn, chestnut, cinnamon, blonde, some combination of al the above and even a gray-blue! So why the name ‘black bear’? The first settlers to North America only saw black bears because of the region in which they were in and didn’t realize at the time the further inland they went, the more color variation bears had.
Photo credit: Ernie Page
I just want to drop this photo right here to brighten up your day! Black bears have a very curious nature yet are also extremely cautious, which I think is being portrayed perfectly in this beautiful image that Ernie Page captured of a young bear peeking around a tree at our sanctuary!
As our season comes to an end and the bears leave for hibernation, we take time to reflect on what a wonderful season we had. We had THE BEST team yet this year! So many hard working, passionate people that strive to be their best and do the best they can to make the lives of the bears that call our sanctuary home better. Ernie and Angie Page are one of the first people that come to mind when I think about some of the wonderful, loving, giving people that donate their time and resources to the bears, staff and sanctuary. Their first visit was in 2017, in which Angie made THE BEST dinner and dessert ever for the entire team (Angie is a MASTER chef and has won all of our hearts with her cooking alone). They continue coming back each year, typically twice a season. They are committed, dedicated people that help out wherever they see needed. This year, they led a photo workshop for the sanctuary and had so much success with that, that many of their participants are already talking about coming back next year! THANKS SO MUCH ERNIE AND ANGIE, WE LOVE YOU!
Photo by Steph: Ernie and Angie in a cabin that they completely renovated! Wish we had before pics because they did a STELLAR job!
We are closed for the season! Thank you to our 12,000 visitors!
As the fall colors explode in the trees and frost begins to cover the grass in the mornings, our bears are getting ready for hibernation. They have amassed warm and toasty fat reserves and are putting the final touches on their winter den home decor. Our staff and fall interns are busy feeding the bears still coming in for last minute snacks and getting our buildings prepared for our own winter off-season. Thus, our viewing platform is now closed. We’ll be open again to see the bears Memorial Day weekend, 2021.
We just wanted to take the time to thank our 12,000 visitors who came to see the bears this season. In May, we worried if we would even be allowed to be open in the midst of COVID-19. So we want to thank everyone who came out this season, despite the fear of the pandemic. Thank you for trusting us to do our due diligence to protect you and your families. Thank you for sharing your wonder and joy at seeing wild black bears. Thank you for your questions about our bears and other wildlife. Thank you for your donations. Thank you for bringing seeds, and apples, and watermelons with you for the bears. Thank you for your understanding, patience, excitement, and laughter. To all of our visitors, photographers, workshop leaders, board members, volunteers, and interns – thank you so much. We could not done any of it without you. ♥
Lots of love and bear hugs,
– Patricia Mezza
Visitor Center Manager
This season we had a ROCKING team of mostly females! As you can see from the pictures, these girls did it all from feeding the bears, scooping scat, fixing things around the sanctuary and maintaining the property. Many of them also learned to drive our HUGE school bus to shuttle our visitors down to the sanctuary grounds. Thanks ladies, GIRL POWER!
Today we’d like to recognize this wonderful man! Gordy Lindgren has been a volunteer for us now for a few years and is our all around Mr. Fix-It! He is currently repairing one of our intern cabin roofs, which has been needing replacing for some time now. Thank you Gordy for being so great and for volunteering your time with us to make the sanctuary a better place!
I would like to take a moment to honor and recognize this wonderful man, Bill Lea. For those of you that do not know, Bill is one of the co-founders of our organization (founded in 1995). Bill stays behind the scenes as far as the organization goes now, but still leads photography workshops in May and August at our sanctuary. However, about a week ago, Bill’s workshop left and he stuck around to take some more photos. I came down to the sanctuary grounds to find Bill scooping poop (which is what he is doing in this photo and yes, those are all piles of poop in the background in the gravel). Prior to this day, our staff had been so busy prepping, making and putting out the bear food that we got behind on some of the other daily chores. Caring for the bears this time of year is A LOT of work as we experience higher volumes of bears, visitors AND on top of that, a lot of our college help goes back to school. There just isn’t enough time in the day to get the basic chores done this time of year.
I wanted to just recognize Bill because his actions speak volumes. He loves the bears and staff so much, that he does whatever he can to make our lives happier and easier, even if that means shoveling poop! Bill and his wife Klari have been our founders for 25 years now and the sanctuary would not be what it is today without these two wonderful people. Thank you Bill and Klari for being you, we love you!
Thank you to everyone who has donated food to the bears through Homestead Mills of Cook, MN! We get a lot of our regular food orders from the Mill and if you would like to add a bag of peanuts or seeds onto our pile, we’ll pick it up the next time we visit. Homestead Mills is located at 221 N River St, Cook, MN 55723. You can go in person, visit their website http://www.homesteadmills.com/, or call at (218) 666-5233. Just say that you would like to place an order for the bears at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary! Thank you!
Photo Credit: Melia Marquez
Another less commonly seen animal native to this area is the moose! Male bulls can weigh up to 1,300 pounds while female cows can be up to 900 pounds. They have short tails, long bells hanging below their head, and large ears that rotate, giving them stereophonic hearing. They also have very large antlers that can grow up to 6 ft. wide! The are usually seen close to lakes due to their tendency to eat aquatic vegetation. They can even close their nostrils so moose can chew and swallow food underwater! Besides aquatic vegetation, they also eat things like leaves, twigs, and bark. Moose need to eat at least 45 pounds of food per day which is more than 22x what a full grown humans needs to eat!
From everyone at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, we want to send a huge “Thank You!” to the many people who have so far sent us apples, watermelons, seeds, and peanuts or donated funds online to help feed our bears! Most notably, one of our long-time donors and Lifetime Membership holders, Moose Kustra is visiting with us this week and brought along TWO truckloads of watermelons for his furry friends. Thank you, Moose!
But we will are still be accepting food donations if you would like to add to those contributions! Nuts of all kinds, peanuts in the shell, apples, watermelons, and black oil seeds are all favorites. Send us a package or place an order at Homestead Mills in Cook, MN and say “this is a donation for the bear sanctuary, add it to their next order.” Or maybe, join one of our membership programs and read about how your efforts help us learn about bears in our seasonal publication “Bear in Mind.” Any way, shape, or form – we thank you for your dedication for our black bears!
Bear scat differs from many other mammals droppings in a wide variety of ways. Bear scat looks and smells differently based on what the bear has been eating. When bear diets begin to focus on berries, their scat can become colorful and even smell nice! Bear scat plays a very important role in the environment, thanks to seed dispersal. Seeds will pass through a bears digestive system unbroken, and are able to germinate, making bears great at dispersing seeds!
Black bears aren’t the only animals in our woods. Minnesota is home to many animals, such as the Red Fox. Recognized by their orange/red coloring and their distinctive white tipped tail which measures about half their total body length. Red foxes are thought to be extremely clever and cunning, as they learn from past experiences. They are one of a few animals that will store food for later and even have back up dens in case they need to move their young. These foxes can also jump 6 ft high, about the same height as a kangaroo!
With hyperphagia approaching, mother bears are showing their cubs where good food can be found, both within her territory and outside it. She can lead her cubs 60 miles outside of her territory to show them food sources that can be used later in life.

A mother black bear pokes her head out of her tree den to look around for possible danger before coming out of the den

Though hibernation is still a few months away, black bears are already starting to prepare. In mid July, bears will begin to look for good denning spots to use for the winter. Dens can be made in hollow trees, rocks, under trees that have fallen over, or just a hole in the ground. Some are even above ground nests. It wont be until early fall that bears actually begin to prepare the den for hibernation by raking in leaves and other bedding material to make the dens cozy.
Photo Credit: Bill Lea
Black Bears aren’t the only animals in our woods, wolves are also known to roam through the sanctuary. Wolves are quite fascinating species that are both highly intelligent and efficiently organized animals. Wolf packs are established according to a strict hierarchy, with a dominant alpha male at the top and an alpha female. Packs consist of between five and ten animals – usually offspring from several years. This social structure enables them to enjoy maximum cooperation when hunting, communicating, and defending territory. Cool fact, when establishing territory borders for each pack, each wolf will urinate and defecate the lining of their territory. Territories can be as large as 50 square miles, but they may even extend up to 1,000 square miles in areas where prey is scarce. That quite a bit of area to cover!
There are a few key differences when it comes to differentiating black and brown bears, one of these being their claws. Brown bears have longer claws, ranging from 2-4 inches, that are slightly curved. This is so they can dig up roots and small animals from their burrows. Black bear claws are different from this. Their claws are only about 1.5 inches long and very curved which
makes it easier for black bears to climb trees.
Bears are amazing at climbing trees! when cubs are young they are often better at climbing then they are at walking. But it isn’t just cubs that climb, mothers will climb up after their cubs and even large males will sometimes climb a bit when scared (though they usually don’t make it too far off the ground). No matter the age, tree’s provide a safe haven for bears, and sometime a great napping place!
Why bears play is still a mystery to us. There are many possible explanations but none are known for sure. Play could help bears practice their fighting, mating, or hunting skills that they will need when they grow up. It can also provide a safe way for young animals to test their abilities, the abilities of playmates, and the degree of cooperation/competition with them and helps strengthen social bonds. How much each bear plays is dependent on their personality. No matter what the reasoning for play is, one thing we can all agree upon is how cute it is.
Cubs are now about 5 months old, having been born in late January/early February. Though still very small, these cubs look much different than they did when they were born. At birth, cubs weigh about 1/2 a pound and are born with barley any fur, blind. deaf, and cannot walk due to their under-developed back legs. They are now walking and climbing like pro’s, and their mom is teaching them everything that they need to know to survive.
Photo Credit: Melia Marquez
Despite having the name American Black Bear, not all of these bears are black. They come in a wide variety of colors, from black or brown to cinnamon or blonde. There are even subspecies of black bears that have even rarer coloration. On the coast of British Columbia, lives a subspecies called Kermode bears. About 20% of these bears have white fur and are known as Spirit Bears. Even further North, in Alaska, are Glacier Bears. These bears can be a dark bluish gray color with silver-tipped guard hairs. Though we don’t have any spirit or glacier bears at the sanctuary, there is still a wide variety of coloration in the bears you can see if you stop by!
Photo Credit: Melia Marquez
It’s mating season! Every May and June black bears go searching for potential mates. Females with no cubs will begin to spreed their scent to let the males know that they are available. Males will court females for up to 9 days, following them around, playing together, and resting together. Once the female is receptive to the male, the two will mate and then part ways. Black bears are polygamous, meaning they mate with multiple partners, so both will go off looking for a new partner.

Bruno hitches a ride

While watching videos of Ginger and her family and seeing them in person now that they have begun to visit the sanctuary; one thing has become very apparent. Ginger keeps Bruno very close. In this video, we get to see just how close she has been keeping him! It is not common for American Black Bears to carry cubs on their backs (this is something seen often in sloth bears though), so it is a very special thing that we just so happened to capture! Also if you look closely underneath Ginger, one of her other cubs is nursing or attempting to nurse.

In love with this family yet? They have certainly captured our staffs hearts! Want to help Ginger feed all FIVE of her cubbies? You can donate here: https://www.americanbear.org/get-involved/donate/

Photo credit: Dennis Udovich, guardian and past president

Staff members got a treat today! First bear seen IN PERSON at the sanctuary this afternoon! We had been catching them regularly on trail camera, but it wasn’t until today that one wandered in!
Did you know that you can now give and get back?! New for 2020, as a result of the recently passed CARES ACT, donations to qualified charitable organizations such as the American Bear Association, which co/operates the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, can provide taxpayers with income tax deductions of up to $300, even for those who do not itemize. (This material is not offered as legal or tax advice. Please consult your tax professional to discuss your situation)


Hooray, it is time for Friday Bear Tales again! Meet BelleIt is not hard to see why this beauty has been named Belle (This is the french word for beautiful).Late August was the first time she was observed by staff. She came in through the backwoods of our property with one, very large cub in tow. Which took us by surprise, as she looked and seemed so young herself.

When staff attempted to observe her at closer proximity, she nervously ran away (which is why none of the images are very clear). This initially told us that she was likely new to visiting the sanctuary and was still trying to figure out how things worked.

I spent a lot of time with her over the next several weeks, just observing her and her cubs interactions and behaviors. Her extremely nervous behavior left me wondering a few things. Had she had run-ins with people prior to coming to the sanctuary that were not as favorable? Her body language and nervous behavior was similar to what we see in yearlings (1 and a half year old), was she only just a baby herself? This left me wondering if the small bear that was shadowing her was maybe not her cub after all, but a small yearling that she took under her wing.

As I spent more time with her over the next few weeks, she became more trusting and eventually, the small bear that was with her came out from the shadows to join her to eat as well. I will likely never know how old Belle actually is, nor will I know if the small bear that was with her was her cub. This is OK, as not knowing all the answers is what keeps me fascinated and in awe of a bears behaviors and interactions with humans and other bears alike.

Belle can be recognized by the beautiful, tan speckling in her face and the narrow, small muzzle she has. Very few bears that visit the sanctuary have this unique speckling, so it is my hope that she will be easily identified if she comes back again!

It is my hope that I will see Belle again this season so I can learn more about her behaviors.

Photo credit: Steph Horner


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Pecan

So what is with us naming our bears after nuts, flowers, Disney characters, and gems/stones? Well, we try to stay away from human names as much as we can as we do not want to anthropomorphize them (give them human characteristics). After all, they are still very WILD animals! Anyways, Pecan was named so because I (Steph) believe that he is related to Peanut, whom we have spoken about many times on this page. Peanut also has a daughter whom we named Cashew, so I thought it would be cute to keep the family theme going.

Just like Peanut and many of her offspring, Pecan has a very dark face. This is not a very common characteristic of bears. During many parts of the season, Pecans muzzle is so dark that their is little distinction from his coat to his muzzle. Just like Peanut and her offspring, Pecan has a beautiful auburn colored coat that has some highlights within. Pecan looks so much like Peanut that in the beginning of the season (before he puts on weight), at first glance, he can easily be mistaken for her.

One of my favorite things about Pecan is that he has a very intense stare in which you can just see his intelligence at work. He is also a pretty laid back adult male and often keeps his head down, avoiding confrontation with other males. He has remained scar-free because of this, which just adds to his beauty.

Photo Credit: Gayle Sheahen


We still have openings for the Snowshoe at the Sanctuary Program this Saturday March 14th. You MUST pre-register and can do so here: https://www.americanbear.org/snowshoe-at-the-sanctuary/

Don’t miss out, this is our last program for the winter! All participants will also receive 30% off all merchandise and we have lots of NEW items! Sign up today!


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Grizette

These two photos were taken this past season in which Grizette had one cub. Grizette had put her cub in a tree above her head and cub was fussing a bit, making vocalizations, letting Grizette know that she was growing impatient and was ready to come down. Grizette proceeded to make vocalizations back to her to instruct her to stay put! Grizette is a excellent mom and therefore continued to look up to ensure that the cub was staying put.

Grizette was named so because she has a beautiful fur coat that resembles a grizzly bears. Typically grizzly bears have lighter fur on their hump/back. Although Grizette is absolutely an American Black Bear, she has that lighter, grizzled look. She also has significantly lighter eyebrows and a lighter muzzle than the rest of her coat. These things alone help when identifying her!

A few years ago, Grizette had 4 cubs and all 4 of them had light muzzles and light eyebrows just like her. For that season, they were dubbed the ‘eyebrow family’.

The last picture posted here was of Grizette just ‘hanging out’…she has quite the personality.

Photo credit: Steph Horner


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Squincy

Squincy was named so because when staff first noticed him several years ago, he had such long eyelashes, that he was constantly squinting, as seen in the images below! We initially thought that something was wrong with his eyes, although after a few visits, we noticed he doesn’t always squint and appears to get around just fine. It is possible too that his eyes are a bit more sensitive to light, although he really does have much longer, thicker eyelashes than most bears.

Squincy is a very mischievous, vocal bear. While he is quite small and short for an adult male, he makes up for that in attitude. It is not uncommon to hear him bellowing at other bears, stealing their food and running them off. It is possible that because he is so much shorter, he has needed to be tougher all of his life.

As you can see in both images, his left ear has a pretty large notch in it, likely due to a past fight. This helps in identifying him, although he is not the only male with a left ear notch. He has started to gray a bit in his face, so this helps in identifying him as well. However, when staff are identifying him, we typically use behavior, as his personality really stands out!

Photo credit: Dalton Sheffler


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Sansa (also briefly known as Petunia as she was misidentified as a bear that had not come in before since her winter and summer coats look so different. Identifying bears can be tough sometimes!)

As I am sure you can guess, Sansa was named after a character from the very popular show, Game of Thrones. She was named so because of the stunning, rare beauty that she shares with that character.

That beautiful tan speckling between and above her eyebrows is what makes her so unique and beautiful. The first image was taken from the spring, when she was still wearing her chestnut colored winter coat. As the summer progresses, she loses that coat and a dark, rich brown coat emerges.

Sansa had three cubs this past season (in 2019), whom she kept a very close eye on at all times. If I remember correctly, all three of her cubs had similar tan speckling above/between their eyebrows too! We are hoping that she brings them in this Spring before dispersing them so we can get some better looks and images of them and hopefully name them too so we can keep tabs on them as well!

Photo credit: Ernie Page- Thank you Ernie for capturing such stunning images of her and her family!

Did you know it is our 25th anniversary this year!? Stay tuned for details for a BEARY special event to celebrate this milestone! We are so excited for all that this season will bring…we have so many new things and new programs planned, so start planning your trip to visit us this year! For more info about our sanctuary visit: www.americanbear.org

Friday Bear Tales: Meet Noerenberg

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today, we saved one of the sweetest bears for this special occasion! While he may not appear to be the most attractive bear you have ever seen, he makes up for that in personality. Noerenberg is the bear that is down with anything and is just overall extremely relaxed. He strikes me as having a very gentle soul as he has the kindest eyes out of any other bear I have met. You would think from all of his visible scars that he is a very confrontational bear. However, that is not the case. I suspect that as a young bear, he liked to stir up a little trouble, hence the scars, but he has seriously mellowed out with age. It is estimated that he is about 21 years old, which is quite old for a male bear (typically male bears do not live as long as females, average life expectancy of a wild black bear is 15-20 years).

Noerenberg loves to hang out in what we call the ‘salad bowl’ at the sanctuary. This meadow is in the open and is in view of the viewing platform in which our visitors observe from. It is filled with tasty grasses, dandelions and clovers that Noerenberg just cannot pass up. He also likes to pick a spot that is close to our bear food storage in which we store our supplemental food (dried fruits, nuts and seeds)…I suspect that he knows one smile from him melts our staffs hearts, so he often times gets the first pick for food.

Photo Credit: Ernie Page

NEW CUBS ARE BEING BORN NOW! This is our favorite time of the year, as tiny (1/2 of a pound) black bear cubs are being born in cozy dens all across North America! In Northern MN, it is typically quite cold, so hopefully mama bear chose a good, small spot with lots of insulation. Body heat is key for cubs when they are just born as they are born without fur. They will snuggle close to mama bear for warmth and drink her milk regularly to get big and strong quickly. A mother bears milk is high in fat (33% fat-compare that to humans which is only 3-4% fat).

Bears of the World: SUN BEARS

Sun bears can be found from southern China to eastern India and as far south as Indonesia.Since they live in tropical climates, they have a sleek, black coat which is short to avoid overheating. It is also thick and coarse to provide protection from twigs, branches, and rain.As said in the past post, they are the smallest of all bear species existing today. This allows them to easily move through VERY dense forests! Despite their name, sun bears are actually nocturnal. They navigate the forests by night, snacking on fruits, berries, roots, insects, small birds, lizards, and rodents. They have an excellent sense of smell and extremely long claws (check them out in the pic below!!!), exceeding four inches in length (compare to about 2.5 inches for American Black Bears), which they use to rip open trees and termite nests.


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Cashew
Cashew is very near and dear to my heart as she is the daughter of Peanut (who we spoke of about a month ago and just so happens to be the oldest bear we have visiting our sanctuary at this time). Cashew was was born in late January, early February of 2016, making her 4 years old! As a cub, she could often be found running around causing mayhem or attempting to initiate play with Peanut, as she did not have any siblings at the time. One of my favorite memories of Peanut and Cashew from 2016 was stumbling across them in the woods, outside of the 2.5 acre feeding area. I was doing our annual berry survey and came across Peanut at the base of the tree, trying to nap. However, Cashew was not having any of that. I observed Cashew climb up the tree a bit, only to drop down on Peanut’s back. She then climbed up again to the same spot, and dropped onto Peanut’s back again. She then began to tug on Peanut’s fur and ears, trying to get her to play. Peanut responded by rolling over and covering her face. What a fun, intimate moment I got to witness!

Cashew can be identified by a white chest blaze that is only pinky size on the left side of her chest. She also has light eyebrows and lighter highlights in her fur, just like Peanuts.

Photo credit: Steph Horner


Are you smarter than the average bear? We think you might want to read these facts before deciding…

Bears are HIGHLY intelligent animals. Their high capacity to learn, curiosity and excellent memory are the key to their intelligence. Their intelligence has been ranked with that of primates like monkeys and baboons. They also have the largest brains relative to body size of any other carnivore. This gives them ample capacity to interpret and remember. Some of their intelligent actions include:
*Cunning abilities
* Using tools
*Hiding tracks
*Outwitting humans (this has happened at the sanctuary a time of two)
*Adapting to other influences
*Concealing self in ambush or hiding from humans
*Learning quickly in training sessions
*Retreating in the face of great odds

Image Credit: Ernie Page


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Schwinn!

Schwinn is the most popular bear that visits our sanctuary and is the most asked about because he only has THREE LEGS! Schwinn began visiting the sanctuary in 1999 and it was believed that he was about 2 years old at the time, which would make him about 23 years old this January/February!

We do not know how Schwinn lost his leg as he came to the sanctuary with it already completely healed. However, we do NOT believe that he was born this way. Had he been born that way, he would have had a hard time keeping up with his mom and siblings and would not be able to climb a tree to escape danger, and therefore would’ve likely been left behind. There are many theories as to how he lost his leg. but we just cannot know for sure.

Despite his disability, Schwinn gets around pretty well and maintains a healthy weight. Interestingly enough, we do not typically see Schwinn at the sanctuary until early to mid July, which raises the question as to how far he is traveling from to get to the sanctuary. We do not know, unfortunately.

One thing that I have found interesting over the years is the fact that other bears typically leave Schwinn alone. This may be because he moves differently when he walks, which is frightening to the other bears. It is also possible that he has established some dominance over the years.

Schwinn and his story are so inspiring. He is so resilient and has adapted to this life, despite his limitations. It is no wonder he is a staff and visitor favorite alike.

Photo credit (in no order): Bill Lea


Bears of the World: SUN BEARS!

The Sun Bear is the smallest bear of the 8 bear species still living today and not much is actually known about the sun bear as there has not been as much research done on them as there has on other bear species. Research on sun bears only began in the 90’s.

Our sanctuary has a beloved friend that is currently working with sun bears in Indonesia.When I asked him to come up with some of his favorite sun bear facts, these are what he provided. Enjoy!

*They have found 44 different types of termites in their scat and 115 different type of fruits.
*They have 4 nipples (or teats), 2 less then any other bear species
*Their Malay name translates as “(s)he who sits up high.”
*The purpose of their patch/chest blaze is so if they stand on their hind legs in the forest other animals can see them and know to run away
*They spend 18 months with their mother (which is the same for the American Black Bear)
*Their fur is quite coarse and they have very loose skin so if attacked from behind they can roll out of the attackers grab and fight back
* My personal favorite is that they have a tongue that is 20-25 cm in length (8-10 inches). This allows them to get honey from bee hives and insects from deep crevices!

Image of Fitri the sun bear, from the Orangutan Foundation International FB page


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Jasmine

Jasmine is, hands down, one of the prettiest bears we have that visits the sanctuary AND she has some of the prettiest cubs. However, she is not the smartest bear that visits our sanctuary. I say this because she hasn’t quite figured out the importance of always keeping tabs on her cubs. Often times, it seems that she is unaware of the dangers of allowing her cubs to wander about without her by their side. One of the first things a mother bear will teach her cubs is to climb a tree for safety. Followed by that are the vocalizations in which mother bear makes to alert at danger. These tell the cubs WHEN to climb a tree and how long to stay there. these vocalizations are often a series of gulps. Sometimes it seems that Jasmine forgets to teach one of these two very important lessons. Just like people, mother bears have different ways of teaching cubs and some are more strict than others. Although we do not know her exact age, I suspect that Jasmine is a younger mother bear and so she is lacking some experience still. I believe she will learn as she goes and will become a better mother with every passing year.

Jasmine can be identified by her unique chest blaze or chest patch. When she is sitting up perfectly straight, you can see that her chest blaze is actually a J and a backwards J that do not touch. An easier way to think of it would be like two, opposite parenthesis: )(
She also has a rounder head and a very short snout, which is visible in the photo below.

Photo Credit: Delton Shessler


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Nikki

Nikki is one of the most fierce mama bears out there! Stating that she is a strict mom is an understatement. I have observed Nikki spank and swat her cubs when they are misbehaving or wander too far away.I have also seen her spank and swat other mother bears’ cubs if they wander to close to hers! It is a dangerous world out there, and therefore, Nikki’s discipline only ensures greater survival for her cubs. She is, without a doubt, one of best mother bears that visits the sanctuary. Not only is she a great disciplinarian, she is also very attentive to her cubs’ needs and is often seen visiting the sanctuary not to feed herself, but her cubs. She has also been seen playing with her cubs, which is important for a cubs development.

She is the only bear that visits the sanctuary that I know of that has had at least 3 separate litters of FIVE CUBS! Black bears can have litters of 1-6, although 2-3 is more common. That in itself is pretty remarkable. Although, last season, she only had one cub, so we can’t help but wonder if she is reaching senescence (the age in which she can no longer bear cubs). Nikki will be 21 this January/February.

Nikki can be identified by the tan speckling between and above her eyebrows. In comparison to other bears, she has a much lighter face and is one of the easiest identifiable bears that visits the sanctuary because of this. Photo credit: Tim Halvorson 


Continuing on about the eight bear species of the world: PANDAS

What is it about just seeing an image of a panda that can brighten any mood? While their striking black and white pattern adds to the cuteness factor, scientists are not quite sure as to why they have their distinct pattern. Some speculate that it allows for effective camouflage. Whatever the reason, they sure are cute!

Pandas live in a few mountain ranges in south central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing and other development now restrict giant pandas to the mountains.

All captive bears are on loan from China and need to be shipped back to China by the age of 4 via FedEx to help expand the gene pool as Chinese scientists are working hard to reintroduce the giant panda back into the wild!

It is believed that pandas live 15-20 years in the wild and 30 years in captivity.


Friday Bear Tales: Meet Jasper
This handsome fellow is typically one of our largest males that visits the sanctuary. Don’t let his size fool you, he is THE sanctuary sweetheart! Often I get asked if it is scary walking around with big males like Jasper. My response is always the same. No way, the larger males are the sweetest and the most gentle. Jasper loves sitting on the cedar pile (which we replenish every season as it is a natural insect repellent) and can often be seen sitting ‘buddah’ on hot summer days. While staff and interns love and favor Jasper, our dominant male Cheeky, is not a fan of Jasper’s. What did Jasper do to warrant this general disdain? We are not quite sure as Jasper is never the one to instigate or initiate a fight with Cheeky, nor have we ever observed him challenge Cheeky for his dominant role.

Jasper can be identified by his caramel-colored muzzle and his copper-colored chest blaze. He is the only bear I have met thus far that has this coloration in his chest blaze. His chest blazes are small vertical lines that are almost tucked near his armpits. When lying on his stomach, they are often hidden.

Jasper will be 20 this January, which is quite old for an adult male.

*Please note that it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so for the purpose of education and communication.

Photo credit: Kaitlyn Hickerson 

12/ 6/19

FRIDAY BEAR TALES: Meet our oldest bear at the sanctuary right now (that we know of), Peanut! She will be 30 this January. Peanut is the only bear that is left from when Vince was around feeding (again, that we know of). She was named so because she was the runt of her litter.

She can be identified by her auburn coat and natural, lighter highlights. She also has begun to gray a bit in the face these last few years. She also has a few small scars on her muzzle that she got in 2014. Staff can also ID her by her walk as she typically saunters into the sanctuary and makes a beeline for her favorite spot, a food site in the meadow.

Since she has been around for 30 years, she has gained a lot of respect from all of the bears that visit the sanctuary. It is possible that she has earned this respect because she is the great grandmother, grandmother, mother and sister to many of the bears that come to the sanctuary. It is because of this that she can do as she pleases with little to no confrontations with other bears.

She has also earned the utmost respect, love and attention of 30 years worth of staff, interns, volunteers and visitors and she knows it. Since she is so loved, she is brought only the best and is always fed before other bears. Her current favorite food is unsalted peanuts in the shell.

*Please note that it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so for communication and educational purposes only.

Photo Credit: Bill Lea


Friday Bear Tales:
Meet the sanctuaries dominant male, Cheeky! What does being the dominant male require? Surprisingly, the biggest bear is not always the most dominant. Cheeky may be large, but he is not the largest bear that visits. He just happens to have a bigger/dominant ‘attitude’. He is normally one of the first bears to arrive in the Spring and begins marking his territory by scent marking. Bears have glands in the pads of their feet that release their own unique smell to let other bears know who was last in an area.

Cheeky is a favorite at the sanctuary as he is often present throughout the season to maintain his dominance. Most bears respect his title and rarely does he need to fight for his title.Normally ‘the look’ is all that is needed to keep others in line.

Cheeky can be physically identified by his beautiful chestnut/auburn colored fur and his tan muzzle and eyebrows. Staff use behavior when identifying him as well as he consistently twitches the upper corner of one side of his mouth (think the Elvis lip twitch and you’ll get the idea).

Photo Credit: Ernie Page


Ginger Nov 2019

This past weekend, we recieved a pretty neat video! With the cold weather we’ve had, you’d think that the bears would be tucked snug away in their dens, hibernating by now. We were surprised to capture this image of one of our collared bears, Ginger, this past weekend! Bears typically hibernate for 6-7 1/2 months in northern Minnesota, although they can and do remain active periodically throughout the winter…especially if there is food available or temperatures are mild. When active, they typically do not venturte too far from their den. We can’t help but wonder what Ginger was up to!

Video credit: Robby B


It’s time for Friday Bear Tales!!!

Today, I would like you to meet Hades! Don’t let his name fool you, he is as sweet as can be, just look at that smile! Hades and his sister, Athena, were named back in 2016 by interns when they were both yearlings (one and a half year olds). Hades was named so because of his unusually dark muzzle and face, not because he has a dark personality. He is the opposite, actually. Hades is one of the most playful, rambunctious sub-adults there is! Often times he can be seen initiating play with much older, larger bears. Sometimes they will humor him and play a bit, sometimes they will not and will nip at him or run him off to let him know they are not interested. Either way, that doesn’t change Hades’ happy, upbeat attitude. Athena and Hades are thick as thieves, and up until this past season, they were seen coming and leaving together regularly. While it is not uncommon for siblings to stick together after dispersal, we do not often see them sticking together much after that first year on their own. This season was the first time we did not observe them coming in together, and I suspect I know why. Stay tuned for next Friday, as we will be featuring Athena and will go into some insight as to why they likely were not seen together.

**Please note: It is not common practice in naming wild animals. We do so for communication and educational efforts.**

Photo Credit: Nicolette Whiting and Steph Horner


Friday Bear Tales:

Have you seen the Young Guns movies? If you enjoyed the late 80’s, early 90’s films, then this next bear is for you! This little guy was named after Billy the Kid because he has such an adventurous, bold and wild personality! Meet ‘The Kid’! This season was the first time we noticed The Kid, and we suspect that he is a yearling (1 1/2 years old). Yearlings have been recently dispersed (kicked out of the house by mom) and therefore typically fall into one of two categories. They are either very curious and bold, or very timid and skittish. The Kid takes his curiosity and boldness to another level though as his personality stood out significantly to staff.The Kid is easily identified by the beautiful brown color of his fur, the tan speckling that he has above and between his eyebrows and how expressive he is with his ears (as seen in these images). Not only did staff like The Kid and his fun personality… he had quite the following of other bears his age! It was not uncommon to see him come in with other bears and to observe him initiate play with them!

**Please note: It is not common practice in naming wild animals. We do so for communication and educational efforts.**

Photo Credit: Nicolette Whiting


Friday Bear Tales: 
We want to have a little fun and feature a different bear from our sanctuary each Friday this Fall/Winter.

Today, I want to feature my absolute favorite bear. Taking a look at the images below, I am sure you don’t have to wonder why. Meet Jade, one of the most relaxed, sweetest bears you’ll ever find! It is more common to find Jade napping in the back woods than eating. While it is not common at all for bears to nap on the ground at the sanctuary, Jade does just that. We typically see bears napping in the safety of the treetops, however, Jade can nap just about anywhere…as seen below. Don’t let this fool you though, while she is very relaxed and tolerable of humans at the sanctuary, she is NOT tolerable of other bears…especially those getting to close to her cubs or those interrupting her nap! We are not exactly sure how old Jade is, but suspect she is in her teens (bears become sexually mature and therefore an adult anytime between the ages of 3-11). While she may just look like any other bear, there are a few things that help me ID her. She has larger ears than most, it seems she never really did grow into them. She has a golden muzzle and golden eyebrows to match. Finally, in 2016 Jade had a rough year. She sprained her ankle AND got a nasty gash across the bridge of her nose. She now walks with a bit of a limp and has a permanent scar across her nose that help with IDing her.

Know a sanctuary bear by name that you’d like to know about? Email or message us on Facebook!

**Please note: It is not common practice in naming wild animals. We do so for communication and educational efforts.**


As the buds on the trees begin to bloom and spring peaks its head around the corner at the sanctuary, we are observing more bear activity. When bears leave their winter dens, they are VERY hungry, since they have not eaten in several months. We have observed bears eating sprouting grasses and clovers, along with tree buds. They especially like eating vegetation around this time because it helps clear their digestive system out, as they have been inactive since the fall.

This video shows Sansa and her three yearling cubs, 2 brown and 1 black. These 4 have been regular visitors at the sanctuary in the past couple of weeks. Moms of yearling cubs will continually teach them the best places to get food before she disperses them, or kicks them out, in late May or June.

Video Credit: Dennis Udovich



A curious fox visited our sanctuary! The red fox’s resourcefulness has earned it a legendary reputation for intelligence and cunning. Red foxes are solitary hunters who feed on rodents, rabbits, birds, and other small game. They will also eat fruit and vegetables, fish, frogs, and even worms. If living among humans, foxes will opportunistically dine on garbage and pet food.
Video courtesy of Dennis Udovich.


Hall (with little blue ear tags) is an extremely curious bear that is always ‘touching’, sniffing and exploring everything. This is not uncommon for bears his age, although once mom disperses her yearlings, most become more timid and hang out in trees. Trees are the safest place for them to be as they are out of dangers way. While Hall spent lots of time in the trees after disperseal, he spent more time on the grounds exploring. This can be seen as a bit bold for such a young bear…but that is just Hall being Hall!

This video was captured outside of his den last March, a month or so prior to the family leaving their den. Darla, Hall & Oates were one of the first families that I saw in the early spring at the sanctuary. We are getting pretty eager to see the bears again, thats for sure!



Do we have a treat for you! Sanctuary advisor, Dennis Udovich, sent me several videos from Hall & Oates’ den last year. Here we have Hall & Oates playing outside of their den on March 5th, 2018. It is common for bears to emerge from their dens around March, but they remain close to the den as their bodies slowly come out of hibernation since they are typically still very lethargic.

Play is very important for cubs, yearlings and sub-adult bears. Not only does it help establish bonds and relationships with other bears, it also is important for muscle development as well as improving coordination.


Continuing on from last weeks post with our adventures of Hall & Oates…Throughout the summer, their mom Darla (pictured below), taught them all they need to know about living life as a bear to survive on their own. They will only stay with her for about 18 months, so it is important that they pay attention and learn quickly. She taught them how to escape danger and predators by climbing trees. She taught them how to find food to eat by showing them the places her mother showed her. Bears have such an excellent memory, that once they learn a food source, they will never forget it. She also showed them what foods are safe to eat, by chewing them in her mouth and allowing her cubs to smell her breath using their Jacobson organ. Bears have an amazing sense of smell, so they will not forget these foods she shows them. One of the last important things she teaches them is how to find, construct and insulate a den. They do not typically use the same den every year, so it is not uncommon for them to begin looking for a den during the summer. More times than not, bears will use dens that have already been in use by other bears, or by other animals, so much construction is not typically needed. However, it is imperative that they find a dry den and that they insulate it with dry materials. One of my favorite things to is observe at the sanctuary in late summer, early fall is when moms are trying to teach cubs HOW to insulate a den. Quite often we see moms showing cubs how to rake up dry materials or how to gather materials in their mouth and make a ground nest. Since cubs have a short attention span, mom will show them how to do this MANY times until they finally understand and can do it themselves. It takes LOTS of patience raising cubs and I suspect that Darla needed to learn even more patience raising 3 boys of the same age at the same time!

**Please note, it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for educational and communication purposes.**



Let the adventures of Hall & Oates continue! In my last post, I left off saying that we didn’t see much of Hall & Oates during their first 6 months of life because they spent a lot of time in the treetops of various aspen, elm & ash trees. That all changed when they began to eat solid foods. Cubs typically begin to eat solid foods around 6 months. When Darla did allow her cubs to join her on the ground to eat, she kept them on a very tight leash. Which again, is what good mama bears do. I observed them often getting into little tiffs with each other over food, which is pretty common too. It is always interesting to see them fight over food because they are very vocal about it, but also because there is always plenty of food to go around, so really there is nothing worth fighting over. In addition to being vocal, they will bite at eachothers ears and occasionally swat each other. Sometimes cubs will get so carried away that mom will intervene to break them up.

**Please note, it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for communication purposes.**


Continuing on from last weeks post about Hall & Oates…They arrived to the sanctuary in May of 2017, with their brother and mom, Darla, in tow. Yes, normally she was lagging behind as they were so eager to explore the world as it was still so new to them.  Darla is an excellent mom as she almost always makes it mandatory that her cubs be treed while at the sanctuary. One of the first things mama bears will teach their cubs as they leave the dens is to climb trees for safety. So, during the first 6 months of their lives, we didn’t see them much as they obediently listened when Darla told them to stay in the tree until she came back. Mama bears use several vocalizations with their cubs to communicate various things. When treeing cubs, they use a gulping vocalization that tells them to stay in the tree until she returns. She will then make that gulping vocalization when she returns, telling them to come down. Often times, they are like human children and do not listen to her instructions. At that point, she may use an impatient gulp, in which I believe she is saying, “come down now, or I will leave without you!” Knowing Hall & Oates personalities now, I believe that Darla absolutely had to make threats to keep them in line!  They are now celebrating their 2nd birthdays and we sure hope they are staying warm in these frigid temperatures! Stay tuned for more stories about Hall & Oates.

**Please note: it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for communication & educational purposes. Cubs were held during a den visit for the sole purpose of keeping them warm while an overall health assessment was taking place on mom.**



It is one of our favorite times of year again because in late January, early February; tiny, bald, deaf, blind, immobile cubs are being born! Because of this, we like to spend the month talking about cubs. Today, I want to specifically talk about two bears that were cubs not that long ago. Cubs grow incredibly fast, as their mother’s milk is 33% fat (in comparison, humans only contain 2-4% fat). So, pictured here are two bears that I have known since they were these tiny, vulnerable cubs pictured with myself and our chief operations manager, Ryan (while bear biologists take necessary samples and measurements on mom, cubs must be kept warm).

It has been so amazing to not only watch them grow rather quickly, but to also watch their unique personalities develop and to witness first hand their problem-solving skills and their interactions among each other and other bears. Their mother is one of the bears that has been collared by the MN DNR, and therefore we have been monitoring her activities for several years now. Her two sons, whom we have since named Hall (blue ear tags) & Oates (red ear tags), both have ear tags for easy identification. We visited their den in March of 2017, when they were just a little over a month old. At birth, cubs weigh around just a ½ pound…when we visited them in March, they already both weighed about 8lbs., the average cub weighs around 5lbs. at the 1-month mark. They are still doing lots of growing, both physically and mentally. Hall visits more regularly, which is why there are a few single images of him. Both LOVE to play with bears their own age…although Hall tries to engage older bears quite often, sometimes with some success! Stay tuned for stories about Hall & Oates, as they are rather mischievous bears!

**Please note, it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for communication and educational purposes.**




Did you know that the winter months are a GREAT time to get outdoors and look for owls!? It is a great time because the woods become a bit more accessible as the snow puts a nice blanket over low, thick brush and the leaves are no longer on the trees, making viewing easier. Also, some of Minnesota’s owl species only typically visit during the winter months. Minnesota is home to 12 owl species, although 10 of them occur regularly. The boreal owl, snowy owl and northern hawk owl are owl species that typically visit Minnesota during the winter months. Pictured below is my personal favorite, the northern hawk owl! They are very curious birds… I actually had one follow me from tree top to tree top last winter while I was snowshoeing. It is common for them to perch atop tall trees, just as a hawk would. Unlike most owls, they are active mostly during the day. It’s diet consists of small rodents (voles are preferred), small birds and sometimes insects, fish and frogs.One great place to see these owls is at the Sax-Zim bog, located a little over an hour south of the sanctuary.

Photo purchased via shutterstock


We’ve been looking at some different tracks lately and I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about bear tracks! It would be extremely unlikely to see bear tracks in northern MN now (they SHOULD all be hibernating), but let’s talk about identifying them anyways!

One of the neatest things about their tracks is that their hind foot looks very much like ours. They walk plantigrade(flat-footed), just like us. This allows them to stand on their hind legs for a short period of time. Check out the side by side comparison of a human footprint and a bear track, they even have 5 toes like us! One visible difference in their hind foot though is that their pinky toe is on the inside of their foot, not on the outside as ours is. It is believed that this helps with climbing. Claws are almost always seen in the tracks and black bears have shorter claws than brown bears. Their front claws are longer than their hind claws to aid in climbing too. Bear tracks really cannot be mistaken for anything else, as nothing is as large. Black bear front tracks are 3 ½ to 6 inches long and their hind tracks are 5-8 inches long.


Who made these tracks?

Here are some hints:

*This photo was taken in Northern MN, near the sanctuary

*I am a carnivore and often times, I prey on animals much larger than me

*My breeding season is in the winter!

*I typically mate for life

*I can go up to 14 days without a meal and still be healthy!

What am I?


One of the most common questions asked while visiting the sanctuary surprisingly has nothing to do with the bears. It is usually something like, “what is that awful noise?” That would be our resident ravens! While they might not make the prettiest calls, scientists have categorized around 33 different vocalizations. Ravens are highly intelligent birds and are said to have an intelligence that rates up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. A few of my favorite raven facts are;
• In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast

• Ravens can mimic many noises and have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open. When the wolf is done eating, the raven gets the leftovers.

Photo credit: Tim Halvorson


OK, let’s test out all of your skills!!! I was out hiking and came across these tracks. They are tracks I had never seen before and therefore had some difficulty identifying. I had to ask the opinion of a co-worker. Once he told me, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t come up with the answer myself, whoops!

Let’s hear your best guess!


Next Tuesday I will be talking with a 5th grade class from Oklahoma about bear diets as well as some of the diets of birds that live in northern MN and OK. I will be talking about the Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike. They are carnivores and eat a varied diet of insects, small mammals, reptiles and other birds. One of the most fascinating facts about these seemingly sweet-looking birds is that they like to impale their prey! They will even sometimes impale their prey while the prey is still alive, on thorns, spines, or barbed wire. They may pull impaled prey and consume it right away, or they may leave it for later consumption. I think the 5th graders will find this super fascinating, yet disgusting! 😊

Photo credit:Northern Shrike from www.allaboutbirds.org


Well, it officially feels and looks like winter here in Orr, MN! We have had snow the last few days and a thin layer of ice is starting to form on Pelican Lake. We have been seeing some winter birds arriving as well! A few of my favorites, the Pine Grosbeak and Snow Bunting are back! Pine Grosbeaks vary in color from a deep red, orange and yellow depending on their sex, age and region! Snow buntings also vary in color depending on sex, age and breeding season. The amazing thing about these birds is that they migrate here from the arctic and sub-arctic tundra! Snow buntings breed the farthest north than any other songbird, making them quite remarkable as they only weigh about 1.5 oz. They have many adaptations to stay warm..their bodies are covered in dense feathers from their feet to the base of their beaks. During really cold days, they will even bury themselves in the warmth of a snowdrift!

Photo Credit: CCNAB and Darren Clark


Denning vs. Hibernation

One of our co-founders recently did an article in our newsletter, the Bear in Mind, about the differences between denning and hibernation. They are often times used interchangeably…so what is the difference? When bears leave to den, they go in search of a preferred denning area. They typically already have a site in mind, as they scoped it out earlier in the season. When they arrive to their den site, they need to make it warm! This consists of raking in dry grasses or even carrying mouthfuls to make the process quicker. During this time, they are very lethargic as their bodies prepare to hibernate. They are still eating and drinking from sources nearby. When their bodies are ready for hibernation, everything slows down (heartrate, breathing, metabolic processes). It is during this time that they go to sleep and therefore do not NEED to eat, drink, urinate or defecate.


Here are two trail cam photos taken from outside the entrance of Darla’s den; she is one of the collared bears we visited on Feb 28th.
Photo 1: Spruce Grouse (rare to see) at the den entrance March 11th.
Photo 2: Darla, with two of her three cubs when they first came out on March 25th.
There have been many discussions between our board members, volunteers, interns and staff about whether we should name bears. In the late 70’s Vince did name his bears; the first bear was named Duffy. Duffy was one of the most famous bears and even Johnny Carson, late night talk show host, talked about Duffy. For now, we have named the collared bears; Sunny, Ginger and Hot Shot (the only male collared) are the others.
Since partnering with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to collar these four bears, we have had the opportunity to learn a lot about each individual’s behavior and movements throughout the year.
The sanctuary will open this coming Saturday, May 26th at 5 pm. Come out and join us at the largest open air classroom to learn about these incredible animals.
We hope all of you have enjoyed and learned a bit from the video and photo clips we have posted in the past 5 months, as it is always fun for us to share our knowledge and what we get to see.
Photo Credit: Dennis Udovich 

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bears and porcupine



Are these 3 bears? You may need to watch closely a few times to decide! Tell us what you think!
Video courtesy of Dennis Udovich



As most of you know, Canada geese LOVE pretty, manicured lawns. They prefer this type of “habitat” for 2 main reasons. They love eating this lush grass as their bodies are capable of processing it and it is delicious. Cut grass is also a safe place to raise your young as it is easy to see any predators approaching. So they are especially abundant in parks, airports, golf courses, and other areas with expansive lawns.

Geese build their nests on the ground, usually on a muskrat mound or other slightly elevated site, near water. They prefer spots in which they can have a fairly unobstructed view in many directions. Females are the bosses as they select the site and do most of the constructon by adding down feathers and some body feathers beginning after the second egg is laid. She does all the incubation while her mate guards her and the nest.

As some people unfortuantely find out, Canada Goose can be mean! They use threat displays which involve head pumping, bill opened with tongue raised, hissing, honking, and vibrating neck feathers. If an intruding goose doesn’t retreat, geese may grab each other by breast or throat and hit each other with their wings. Fighting may result in injuries.

Any guess as to which is the female?

Photo courtesy: Dennis Udovich


We have had our FIRST bear into the Sanctuary! The trail camera was recently checked, only to find that we had a bear on camera April 24th at 12:23PM which makes Lee Bergemann our winner guessing April 24th at 4:15PM!!!! Great job Lee, I will be sending you a private message so you can select your prize! Thanks to all of you that played along! We hope you will visit us this year to see the bears doing bear things!


Bears are beginning to emerge from their dens in the Northwoods of MN! I saw a video yesterday of a bear wandering through yards in Duluth, MN (which is about 2 hours south of the sanctuary). Don’t give them a reason to stay in your yard and neighborhood! Bring your bird feeders in at night, store your garbage/grills in the garage and keep a clean yard. These simple things could save a bears life.

Still no sightings of bears at the sanctuary, however, most of our snow has melted and we have had some warm weather, so it shouldn’t be much longer before we start seeing bears again! YAY!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock



You all have proved to be pretty good identifying mammals of the north woods so let’s try your birding skills! What type of ducks are these below? They were captured about a year ago in our creek at the sanctuary.

Depsite their differences, these are both the same species. The brighter colored are males and the more dull, brown ones are females. The males are more colorful because they use these bright, beautiful colors to attract a mate and will use various postures to show off his beautiful plumage. The more brighter their colors and elabroate the postures, the more interested the females are.

They enjoy eating the seeds of aquatic plants, acorns, fruits, insects and fallen seeds from trees/shrubs. They typically live in ponds/swamps surrouned by forest. Unlike most ducks, thay have a strong grip and can perch on tree branches.

Video coutresy of Dennis Udovich



Happy Monday! Bears will go to great lengths to keep their feet dry, as seen in the video below! 🙂 I have also observed bears accidently step in another bears scat and cause quite the scene, trying to get the scat off thei foot!
This video is from a little over a year ago. I do not believe we will have bears out and about as early as we did last year being that Orr was just dumped on with more snow (another 4-6 inches). I just came back from Minneapolis this weekend, which got 15-20 inches of snow in most places!!!!
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich



The scientific name for the striped skunk is mephitis mephitis, which translated equates to “stinky, stinky”. It is no mystery as to why the skunk has been named so! Minnesota has two species of skunk; the Eastern spotted skunk and the striped skunk. The striped skunk is far more common though, and is what has been captured in this video digging.
Skunks are both predators and prey! While very few animals will take on this stinky creature, some do. The most common is the great horned owl! While owls have amazing hearing and sight, they lack a sense of smell so they do not mind taking on the stinky skunk! Skunks love a variety of foods such as insects and their larvae, fruits, mice, carrion and the eggs of reptiles and birds.
Skunks have some similarities to bears! They are omnivorous, go into a winter sleep (called torpor) during colder months when food is not readily available and their young are born altricial (blind, furless, helpless).
Fun fact: Skunks can spray their scent up to 15 feet!
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich


Do you live in bear country, have a cabin in bear country or camp in bear country? This post is for you! Here are some ways that you can be a good neighbor to the bears and other wildlife living with you!

As bears come out of their dens, they are STARVING since they may not have had a meal since last fall! This time of year is a great time of year to be mindful about taking your bird feeders in at night. Bears are most active at dusk and dawn and a bird feeder, no matter its location, is an easy meal for a bear. Remove any items that could be a food source such as; garbage, pet food or food scraps from a grill. Store these items indoors if possible. If you cannot store your garbage indoors, consider buying a bear-proof garbage or only take your garbage down the morning of pick-up, rather than the night before.

So what is so wrong about a bear visiting your yard? Well, you may like seeing them, but all of your neighbors may not be as tolerant. Also keep in mind that a bear will never forget a food source that it used in the past, which could mean that you may have generations and generations of bears visiting your yard year after year. The saying ” a fed bear is a dead bear” is often the reality so please keep a clear yard/camp site when in bear country! For more information on how to live safely in bear country please visit our site! http://www.americanbear.org/educati…/living-in-bear-country/



Well doesn’t this video capture raccoons doing what they do best…causing trouble that is! While raccoons tend to be deemed as dirty, garbage dwelling creatures, they are actually quite clean as they wash their food in streams prior to eating it. They have even been observed digging latrines in areas that they frequent. They are not picky eaters and will eat garbage, sweet corn, crayfish, frogs, insects, fruits and bird eggs.

To most peoples surprise, they are excellent tree climbers and swimmers and are capable of running 15 mph! They also spend most of the winters in Minnesota hibernating in dens with other raccoons. One woman found 23 raccoons sharing an abandoned house together in Swift County.

Video Credit: Dennis Udovich



There are 3 species of weasels in Minnesota, the short-tailed weasel also known as an ermine, the long-tailed weasel and the least weasel. Of these three, the short-tailed weasel is the most common. All 3 species turn white in the winter, although the least weasel is the only one that is all white. The short-tailed and the long-tailed both have a black tipped tail still in the winter. Since their coats change colors, they have great camouflage all year round. This helps them avoid predators, but also helps them be efficient hunters as they can go undetected by their prey. As the names suggest, the long-tailed weasel has a longer tail and is slightly larger than the short-tailed weasel.

Fun Fact:
Weasels are deadly, effective hunters. After dispatching their prey, weasels may lap a victim’s blood before eating its flesh. As they feed, weasels usually turn back the skin of an animal. By the time they finish their feast, the skin of their prey is inside-out.

Video Credit: Dennis Udovich



Are these adult bald eagles and juvenile bald eagles OR are they adult bald eagles and some juvenile golden eagles? Distinguishing between juvenile golden eagles and juvenile bald eagles is very tricky!

Keep in mind that body size DOES NOT always mean that it is a golden eagle. While golden eagles can be a little larger than bald eagles, juvenile bald eagles and juvenile golden eagles often have broaden wings and longer tails than adults, making them appear larger! Also, as juveniles, golden eagles have a bit of white in their tails and near their “wrists”, but never their “armpits”. Where bald eagles have white speckling in their chest and “armpits” but NOT much in the wrist area. Confusing enough, they also have white in their tails.

Fun fact: Bald eagles do not get their white head and tail until their 5th year of life!

So what do we all think?


When bears emerge from their dens they wake up SO hungry & thirsty! Some have gone 6-7 months without eating and drinking. As they begin to wake up from hibernating, it is a bit of a process. It takes them 2-3 weeks before they start to feel normal again and before their metabolic processes return to normal. As they begin to wake up, it is not uncommon to see the bears pop out of the den for a bit, eat some snow, take a little stroll around their denning area and go back and lay down. Bears are still pretty lethargic during this time period so they stick close to their den still until their body readjusts. Bears in Minnesota typically leave their dens in March and April but we do not start to see an increased level of bear activity at the sanctuary until mid-May. May is a great time to see TINY cubs as they were just born in late January, early February so start planning your trip today! We open May 26th at 5PM!



Happy March! Here is your Monday video, it is a few years old, but it is super cool video nonetheless! I am not going to tell you what this animal is, nor give you any hints because its facial markings are extremely distinct and unique to this species alone, which make it easy to determine what it is.

I will tell you some neat things about this animal though. It is not as vicious of an animal as some would think. If cornered it will defend itself, however, it is actually quite tolerable of other animals, even allowing red foxes to den with it! Neat, right!?

They live throughout most of the state of Minnesota, but are not seen often since they are nocturnal. Their range does not extend through the Northeastern part of the state of Minnesota though because they prefer prairies and farmland since they are burrowers. They are the only predator that can dig out the pocket gopher!

What am I?


I am capable of gliding 20- 30 feet from tree to tree. I have even been recorded occasionally gliding up to 150 feet from tree to tree. Some would say that I ‘fly”. This gliding is made possible thanks to extra skin that extends from my wrists to my hind feet. When jumping from trees, I stretch this skin tight, and use my fluffy tail as a rudder, allowing me to glide with ease.

One last hint, check out those LARGE eyes I have. They allow me to see well at night, and therefore I am active at night, which is why people do not often see me!

At lot of times, I am misidentified as a bird “flying” at night.

What am I?



Today’s video is of two black-billed magpies. It would appear that these two have either found food that they cached (stored) themselves, or they found a squirrels cached food!

Magpies, and all members of the Corvidae family (ravens, crows and jays), are extremely intelligent birds that are great problem solvers and are known to be cunning. Did you know that they are one of the few animals in the HUGE animal kingdom that can recognize themselves in the mirror? Black-billed magpies are known to steal food from other birds and follow predators to steal any scraps they can get their bills on. They have been observed taking wood ticks off the backs of elk, moose and deer for a little snack. They are not picky about what they eat. They eat anything from insects, rodents, the eggs of other birds, carrion, seeds, nuts and berries.

One of my favorite facts about magpies is that it is believed that they hold funerals for their dead. When fellow magpies die, observers have seen other magpies gather and form a circle around the dead and sing a song.

It is special when they are spotted at the sanctuary because they typically only live in the northwestern part of the US, through Canada and parts of Alaska. They are said to be nonmigratory, however, during late fall, some do move into northern Minnesota and will spend their winters with us.

Does anybody know any other cool facts about magpies that they would love to share?We’d love to hear what you know or have observed!

Video Credit: Dennis Udovich



Which furbearer am I? Am I a fisher, pine marten or mink?
Since you all were pretty good at guessing a few weeks back, we won’t make it as easy for you this week! Here are some hints:
I am primarily a carnivore and enjoy mice, chipmunks, red squirrels and insects but will eat berries and nuts during the summer months. During winter months, I will hunt under the snow in tunnels. I also use these tunnels during cold winter days to stay warm.
In winter, I will visit bird feeders to eat the birds, NOT the seeds.
I am a very small predator, only weighing around 2 pounds on average.
It was thought that I was extinct from Minnesota in the 1950’s.
I give birth to my kits (typically 2-3) in a hollowed log or under bushes.
Who am I?
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich


Successfully running a non-profit organization takes a lot of work, resources and help from volunteers! We are always in need of help; whether it be time, money or items donated.

We have partnered with Amazon Smile on our website by creating a needs list that is linked to Amazon Smile. All items on the list in BLUE are those that can be purchased through Amazon Smile and sent directly to US! Just click the blue items on our list that you want to donate to get started. Giving has never been easier. We have gone through all the trouble of finding the exact items that we need to make it super easy for you! We have a wide variety of items that range in prices. No donation is too small!

Items not in blue are still just as important but may be items that Amazon did not have or may be items that are best to be dropped off at the sanctuary during visiting hours! Call our office at 218-757-0172 for questions regarding these items.

Our greatest needs right now for the upcoming season are; BEAR FOOD, bug spray, bear spray, air horns, cargo dollies, any native tree/flower seeds or clover and TIME (we are still looking for education interns and volunteers to cook, work in our office, gift shop, on special building projects, etc.)! Check out our updated list HERE: http://www.americanbear.org/get-involved/donate/. The bears thank you for all of your support!!!


To see mother bears nursing cubs in the wild is a very special and rare behavior. Some wildlife biologists go their entire lives and only see this a handful of times. Since the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary offers a sneak peak into the intimate world of the normally reclusive black bear, nursing is seen from our viewing platform a handful of times throughout the season (sometimes even more outside of the hours in which we are open to the public). Having the opportunity to view mother bears nursing is unpredictable since the bears are wild bears and come and go as they please. However, mother bears will typically nurse their cubs roughly until the age of one so it is something that can be seen throughout the entire season during the hours in which we are open to the public (Memorial Day weekend- Labor Day weekend).

It is a huge privilege to observe this special bond between mother and cubs. It is one that us staff truly cherish and never grow tired of seeing. If you have not visited our sanctuary yet, start planning your trip for the 2018 season! We open May 26th and are open Tuesdays-Sundays 5PM-8PM until September 2nd. We are closed EVERY Monday. Click here to begin planning your trip to see the bears: http://www.americanbear.org/the-sanctuary/.

Not sure where to stay? You can find all of the local resorts, campgrounds, hotels and even a bed & breakfast here: http://www.orrpelicanlake.com.

Pictured below are 2 different mother bears that were nursing their cubs during the summer of 2016. It is not uncommon for mother bears in the area to have 3-4 cubs every other year.

Photo credit: Dalton Sheffler


In 2016, we partnered with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to collar 2 female black bears that frequented the sanctuary and then another female and male in 2017. Pictured here is a bear we refer to as “Orange” for the color of her ear tags.She was one of the original bears collared in 2016.

While it is true that bears do not NEED to urinate, defecate, eat or drink during hibernation, that does not mean that they do not. To our delight, we have captured this female eating snow during the months in which she should be sleeping (video can be found on our Facebook page, The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary)! This video was captured in March of 2017. We did experience some pretty nice weather last March and apparently she got a little stir crazy and needed to leave her den and stretch her legs a bit!

As bears near the end of hibernation, it is not uncommon to see them out and about near their denning area. During this time they will slowly begin to eat, drink, urinate and defecate again. Their metabolic processes begin to adjust to these changes as well.

Video Credit: Dennis Udovich


One of my favorite cub facts is that mama bear teaches them which foods are safe to eat by placing it into her mouth and chewing. She allows her cubs to smell her breath and collect the scent particles with their “Jacobson organ” (which is kind of like a 6th sense that bears possess). This then tells their brains what the smell is and since they have excellent memories, they will remember which plants are edible in the future.
Pictured above is a cub enjoying apples that were donated to the sanctuary. Apples are not a favorite of all bears (we have observed that young bears are typically the only ones that eat apples at the sanctuary) but they will eat them in the wild when other food sources are scarce.
Photo Credit: Dalton Sheffler


One of the hardest parts of our jobs is the fact that the bears are wild and sometimes they do not come back. Pictured below here is Jenny (with one of her cubs). This photo was taken in the Spring of 2015. Jenny left that year in the fall and never returned. She was 26 years old that year, which is quite old for a bear. She had 1 cub that year (which, as we talked about before, is common as a female bear gets older). When she left, she appeared very healthy externally. Although we are not sure what happened to her, we suspect that she died of old age. After all, she was one of the original bears that was around when Vince was still alive! Jenny visited every year as far as I know. During the few short years that I got to spend with her, I noticed she came in during the Spring for a bit and then left for most of the summer, only to return again in the later part of fall. She had a very sweet, laid-back personality and is missed every year! She did leave a legacy however, as she possibly gave birth to 20-35 cubs in her lifetime!

***Please note that it is not common practice to name bears, as they are wild animals and are NOT pets. We name the bears that visit the sanctuary for communication purposes and for recoding their comings and goings and behaviors observed.


Our Monday video (posted on our Facebook page) is of a male white-tailed deer that is browsing on a woody shrub. White tailed deer are one of Minnesota’s most common mammals as well as one of Minnesota’s most ecologically, socially and economically important mammals. They are named so after the white fur underneath their tail. When they flee an area out of fear, the white fur can be seen.

During the winter, they typically stay within the forest, preferring coniferous stands (rows of cone-bearing trees). These trees protect them from the harsh elements that Minnesota’s winters are known for.

Males are called bucks and will grown antlers every year (once old enough to do so). These antlers are used during rut, in which they will use to defend themselves from other male deer and to challenge other deer for rights to female deer (also called does). Females do not have antlers. Antlers fall off during the winter months.

Deer are herbivores and have a varied diet of vegetative matter, berries and nuts. They typically eat the most readily available plant. During winter months it is not uncommon to see them eating twigs, as seen in this video. Their stomachs are special because they allow them to eat such things and are capable of breaking them down for digestion. During summer months, one of their favorite food sources is poison ivy! Unlike humans, they do not have negative reactions to the plant!

Video Credit: Dennis Udovich


Mother bears in Northern Minnesota (like Orr) will have, on average, 3-4 cubs every other year. Although we have observed that young, new moms typically have 1-2 cubs and that as mama bears reach senescence (old age in which they will no longer have cubs), they typically only have 1-2 cubs too. I guess life only gives them as much as they can handle in those phases of their lives! At the Sanctuary, we have seen mama bears that had 5 cubs at one time, although this is extremely rare but truly amazing to see!


Black bears have numerous adaptations that allow them to survive frigid temperatures in Northern Minnesota. One that I just came across the other day was a new fact for me that I just found too amazing to not share with you all!

Their coats are so well insulated that frost can form but the bear’s body heat will not escape enough to melt the frost. This is how bears can hibernate in dens that are partially exposed to the elements, like the image pictured below.


Happy Monday! Today the video from the president of our organization, Dennis Udovich, (posted on our Facebook page, find us by searching for the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary) is the same trail cam location as the last 2 videos we have posted on Monday’s. To remind you of those past videos, last Monday we posted a video of a bobcat sniffing the area out. The Monday prior to that was a fisher (a member of the weasel family) sniffing the area out. This weeks video is of a snowshoe hare, which ironically, just so happens to be part of the fishers and bobcats diets!

Snowshoe hares were named so due to the fact that the soles of their feet are large and well-furred to allow them to walk on top of the deep snow. Snowshoe hares also have a pretty cool adaptation. In the summer they are brown to blend in with the forest floor. In the fall they begin to molt their brown coats and begin to turn white so by winter they blend in with the snow!

Fun fact: Snowshoe hares can jump 12 feet in ONE HOP!!!!! They can also run up to 30mph (which is the same as black bears)! That is pretty impressive for such a small mammal!


Black Bear cubs are extremely playful.  Not only will they play with their siblings, they may also try to play with their moms, cubs that are not related, and sometimes other sub adult and adult bears. Depending on mama bears personality, she may allow her cubs to play with another mother’s cubs. We have observed numerous occasions at the sanctuary in which cubs initiate play with other cubs that are not related and sometimes it is allowed, sometimes it is not. As for playing with other sub adults and adult bears, this is never allowed. Typically, cubs will be reprimanded by their moms for doing so, as this could potentially be dangerous to the cubs.

Play fighting is very important for young bears because it teaches them to protect themselves, helps them get stronger be developing their muscles and increases coordination. But if things get too rough, mama bear will discipline them by swatting them with her paw!


Since black bear cubs are born in January & February in the den, we like to take some time this time of year to talk more about cubs!

Like all children, cubs are extremely full of energy, especially once hibernation has ended. When they emerge from their dens in early spring, they are extremely eager to explore the new world that they now live in. As black bear cubs begin to explore, anything and everything can be a “toy”. Sticks, rocks, animals, hollowed out trees, and even mom (as seen in the picture) are all exciting things to explore and play with. All of this exploring takes LOTS of patience from mother bear! Everything is not all fun and games though. Cubs only stay with their mothers for a year and a half and it is very critical that they pay attention and learn everything that they need to learn to be successful at surviving. It is not uncommon for mother bears to discipline their cubs with a swat to the butt or head to ensure that they are paying attention. In the short time they are with mom she will teach them how to find safe food to eat, how to hunt, find a den, construct a den and escape danger by climbing a tree.


Happy Monday! Today we have a great video (posted on our Facebook page) to share that came from the President of the ABA, Dennis Udovich.

How do you tell if it is a bobcat or a lynx? Here are a few facts that can help you decide.

Minnesota has 3 native cats; the cougar, Canada lynx and bobcat. Bobcats are the most common.

The bobcat is smaller than the lynx, but not by much. They can weigh between 20-30 lbs. They have short ear tufts and a black-tipped tail.

Lynx have large, furry feet that allow them to walk on the deepest, softest snow. They can weight between 20-44 lbs. They have a long, pronounced goatee under their chin that is lacking in the bobcat. When I am trying to distinguish between the two, I always look at the ears. Lynx have 2 inch long, black tufts on their ears. Even when the cat is running, it is visible.

What do you all think? Bobcat or lynx?


THE CUBS ARE COMING, THE CUBS ARE COMING!!!! January & February are two of the BEST months because thousands of black bear cubs are being born in their dens in North America! The cubs are born late January into early February. In Minnesota, they are being born during FRIGID temperatures (today in Orr we have a high or -5 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of -27 degrees Fahrenheit)! While mom is sleeping during hibernation, she is still awake and alert enough to take excellent care of her cubs. Her cubs are born with little to no fur, so she needs to keep them close by to soak up her body heat.


Happy New Year! The president of the American Bear Association, Dennis Udovich, captured this fisher on his trail cam and we thought you might enjoy checking it out (posted on our FB page)!

Fishers are members of the weasel family and are extremely agile and active predators. They are EXCELLENT tree climbers (just like bears)! Despite its name, it does not catch or eat fish. It is an omnivore, so their diet is a mixture of carrion (already dead animals), meat, wild berries & nuts. They typically prey on snowshoe hare, mice, squirrels, and porcupine.

Adult females can weigh 6-8 pounds, and males can weigh up to 18 pounds. In Northern Minnesota, fishers are sometimes mistaken for pine martens, as they look similar, although pine marterns are significantly smaller (adults weigh only about 2 pounds).

Fishers also have another thing in common with bears. They exhibit delayed implantation. Females get pregnant in the spring, but the blastocyst doesn’t implant to the uterine wall for another few months, in which then it will begin to develop.



For those of you that have followed our page for a while, you have maybe read a lot about Peanut the bear and her most recent cub, Cashew. Peanut is a staff favorite and therefore, any of her cubs are just as loveable since they often times take after her personality. Today’s photos are of Cashew. The image on the left is of Cashew as a cub, about 5 months old, taken in June 2016. The image on the right is of her as a yearling in late August 2017, so she would be almost 1 year and 8 months old.

Peanut dispersed (kicked out) Cashew in late May 2017, so at this point, Cashew had been on her own for only about 5 months. She learned a lot in that short period of time and changed quite a bit as well! We watched her change from a very brave cub that would approach full grown, adult bears in an attempt to play, to hiding out in the safety of the canopy of a tree all day, trying to work up enough courage to come down to eat. Things change a bit when you don’t have mom fighting your battles anymore!

Today in Orr, MN we are experiencing a wind chill of -34 degrees Fahrenheit and we sure are hoping that all of our beloved bears are warm in their dens!


While doing some research for our NEW deck signs, I came across a fun fact that I found so fascinating that I had to share!

Black bears love ant broods and in some bad berry and hard mast years, ant broods can be a lifesaver for black bears. When talking about the 10-15% “meat” or protein that makes up the bears diet, it is typically ant broods. However, I did not realize just how much protein they (and other insects) actually contain!

Ant broods contain about 80-90% protein. To put this into perspective, beef is about 20% protein, so a handful of ant pupae and larvae is the equivalent to a full sized burger! Pretty neat, right!?


Pictured above is a bear we call Jade. She is easily a staff and intern favorite. I am sure you can imagine why when looking at this photo since this photo basically sums up her overall attitude towards life. She has a very laid back personality. She visits the sanctuary often during July & August, not so much for food though. We have actually observed her and her cubs doing more relaxing and napping than eating when they visit the sanctuary. Jade has claimed a section in our backwoods of the sanctuary as her own for lounging and napping. Despite her laid-back personality, she is a fierce mama bear! In our opinion, she has the best parenting style, she is often laid back, but strict when she needs to be, especially when it comes to keeping her cubs safe! Unlike Nikki, who we posted about yesterday, Jade has been seen several times allowing other cubs to eat, lounge and play with her cubs. Isn’t it amazing how different their personalities can be?


Today I want to talk a bit about mama bears and the different ways in which they teach and discipline their cubs. Pictured below are two mama bears that, to a lot of people, probably look very much alike. However, I assure you they are both two very different females, with two very different personalities and VERY different parenting styles. Jasmine on the LEFT is a younger, newer mom. Therefore she lacks experience. It is not uncommon to see her cubs wandering through the feeding area by themselves. She is always near as they explore, however, she gives them a little too much freedom sometimes. I have observed her cubs walking up to various bears, attempting to share food with them. This does not go over well for most bears, as you can imagine. To let the cubs know that this is not OK, most bears will make a bellow noise, which sends the cubs running the opposite way. During all of this, Jasmine is typically oblivious to the danger her cubs could potentially be in.

Nikki on the other hand (on the RIGHT), keeps a short leash on her cubs, figuratively, of course. She does not allow her cubs to wander more than a few feet from her. Nikki is an older female, about 18 years old, with lots of experience raising cubs. She is such a fierce, strict mom, that I once saw her discipline someone else’s cub! Nikki and her cubs were eating some nuts and another cub wandered up to them to eat with them. Nikki bellowed at the cub, letting the cub know that it was not welcome. The cub continued trying to eat with them. Nikki was having none of that. She flipped that cub on it’s back so fast, the cub didn’t even realize what was happening. Fortunately, this was just a warning for the cub and nobody was hurt.


Since Thanksgiving is coming up tomorrow, we thought we would talk about bears and food! The life of a bear revolves around food! Since they are omnivores and eat around 80% vegetative matter, they need to be constantly thinking about where their next meal will come from. In the wild, they will typically graze all day to consume enough calories. During good berry seasons, they can consume up to 100,000 berries IN ONE DAY! Since they eat a lot of vegetation, they have to eat LARGE amounts of food in one day and therefore search for things that have lots of protein, fat and sugar to help them gain weight.

Some of their favorite foods in Northern Minnesota include hazelnut, acorns from oak trees and sarsaparilla berries.

They begin preparing for hibernation as early as late July by eating copious amounts of food. Since they can lose up to 1/3 of their weight in the den, they want to try to gain 30% of their weight prior to entering their dens in October-December. With that being said, they will try to consume up to 20,000 calories A DAY to gain a few pounds daily.

Not feeling as bad about consuming copious amounts of food now on Thanksgiving Day? Yeah, us either!



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