The Sanctuary

Thousands of people visit the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary every year to view and learn about black bears, their behavior, habitat needs and life cycles. Visitors also get the opportunity to view a special group of wild bears that come to this location every summer, from an elevated platform.

Nestled in the North Woods of Minnesota, the Sanctuary is located approximately two hours northwest of Duluth. The nearest town is Orr, which is about thirty minutes away. Encompassing some 500+ acres, the Sanctuary consists of a combination of habitats: aspen forests, cedar swamps, marshes, beaver ponds, a primary stream, open meadows and numerous other resources.

In addition to being a seasonal home to a large number of bears, this habitat is also used by an abundance of other wildlife including whitetail deer, bald eagles, beavers, mink, pine martens, fishers, timber wolves, red squirrels, bobcats, blue jays, owls, ducks, songbirds, ravens, and a variety of other species. While black bears are the primary focus, the various habitats of the Sanctuary are managed in a manner beneficial to the entire ecosystem.

The permanent establishment of the Sanctuary has preserved a unique opportunity to view and to photograph the intimate world of the normally reclusive black bear. The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary also provides a most extraordinary setting for a variety of non-obtrusive scientific studies and educational programs relating to the diverse natural resources found within its boundaries.



“We live in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and are familiar with Black bear. We have visited the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary twice. Both times were wonderful experiences. The first time we visited was August 2012. That time we saw at least 35 bears,  included was a mother with triplets.  The second time was in June 2014, on a rainy day and we saw about 15 bears. We applaud the work you do to save and preserve the American Black bear. We have told many people about our experiences there and recommended they make the trip to see these amazing bears. If we lived closer to Orr, Minnesota, we would definitely volunteer our services.  May you continue your good work!” -Butch and Judy Facemire Murphy, NC


“I believe that the sanctuary is a very special place for many reasons,the most important one being that the public has a very unique opportunity to observe bears in the wild.  The bears are there because they want to, there is NO fencing to keep them contained.  Seeing momma’s and cubs, observing behaviors from all ages of bears and being in the north woods is definitely a highlight every summer!  I highly recommend visiting!”- Deb Fjetland Welch, MN


” I’ve visited VSWS many times and am planning my next visit. It’s an incredibly unique place to observe free roaming black bears of all ages. I especially love seeing the cubs; they are so cute! The Sanctuary shows me that humans and bears can indeed live in harmony. The volunteers are kind and respect the bears. Thank you for all that you do to educate people about bears.” -Kathleen Reeder Phoenix, Arizona