August 7, 2014 Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center Day 2

The Center gives you two consecutive days for the price of one ticket and believe me, you would need it.  All day long there are movies, programs, events with the animals as well as the museum.

Yesterday we spent the morning outside with the animals so today we wanted to see the movies.

The first one we saw was “Lords of Nature” – a 60 minute film on how predators contribute to a balanced ecosystem.  One of the first statements made in the film was that the wolves have saved Yellowstone.

In the early 90’s, many of the naturalists were raising the alarm that the Yellowstone ecosystem was dying.  No new cottonwoods or aspens or willows were growing.  Because of that the streams were eroding away and letting in more sun to the streams, in turn, hurts the creatures/plants that lived in the shade of the stream, etc.   When they did their research they found that when the wolves were eradicated from Yellowstone, the elk herd population just exploded.  That explosion caused over grazing – they love the young shoots of aspen, willow, and cottonwood.

During the time of this research, the wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone.  They started to find areas where those young trees were starting to really grow and take hold – mainly in the area where the wolves were.  As time has gone on, the trees are growing which in turn is helping the stream banks which in turn is bringing back many other creatures.  In one area, the beavers had disappeared.  There are now eight beaver families there.

Also the elk herd is getting healthier.  The wolves are culling the herd  - what is that saying: “Only the strong survive.”

Another interesting tidbit..After the wolves make a kill, they take what they need and leave the rest.  The rest feeds the scavengers – birds, eagles, grizzlies, many different insects.  They are finding that even the scavengers are benefitting.

Isn’t that amazing!  The ecosystem is starting to heal because of the wolves.

If you want to know more, Google:  “trophic cascade and wolves in Yellowstone”

The research in Yellowstone has lead to research all over the world.  What they have concluded that once the top predators of an area have been eliminated, that ecosystem starts to die.  

Balance of Nature or the saying “Don’t fool with Mother Nature”.

(Can you tell I was really impressed by this movie.)

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The next movie wasn’t for another 30 minutes so we went to the wolf habitat where we watched the High Country Pack Feeding and Enrichment Program.

What first happens is a small door opens into a room with 2 pounds of meat for each animal and if the wolf pack decides to go into the room, the door shuts for about 10 minutes while a naturalist goes into their area, moves things around, puts different animal scents in different places and hides a few bones.  The key is “IF” the pack decides to eat.  Wolves in the wild do not eat every day and the same happens in captivity.  Yesterday when we were here, the pack choose not to go into the room and eat but today they did.

When they were in the room, we were told that when they come out, they will check their area first before they take the bones.  They will smell the food, and continue to check to see what is different then go back to the food.  In the wild, a pack will check out its territory every day to see if anything changed or if anything new has crossed it.

The pack came out, check their area, grabbed the bones, then settled down and chewed away!

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It is so great to see and learn all this.

Our next movie was “Staying Safe in Bear Country”.  Many ways to prevent meeting bears in the wild as well as what to do when you do meet them.  A lot of this we learned in Alaska and it was a nice refresher.  The test will be if we ever meet a bear in the wild, will we remember what to do!

After the movie, we went went thru the rest of the museum.

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I would love to do a polar bear expedition one day.

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The next movie was “Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves”  which told the story of how these creatures are getting along since the reintroduction of the wolves in Yellowstone.  So far so good.  In fact, they told a story about how one of the older bears has followed one of the packs even walking with them.  The pack seemed to tolerate it.  When the pack went on a hunt and killed a buffalo, the bear just sat back and watched.  But then, the bear claimed the carcass and they did let him have it.  Very interesting!

By then it was afternoon and we were movied out – Smile.   So back home we went for lunch and a break and then came back.

The storm was brewing:

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The main reason we went back was to learn how to use the bear spray..  So until that program started, we sat and watched Sam – he is cute but HUGE!:

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New dumpster – Sam just passed it by:

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The storm started so the program was moved under cover.  The naturalist took us thru ways to avoid a bear and things to do if we encounter a bear.  Bear Spray should be a last resort.  But she did show us, how to use it and to keep it close by when we are in the wild.  Great program.

I HIGHLY recommend spending some time at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center if you are in this area.  Two days was not enough for us.

We made our way to Wild West for pizza and beer and then back home where it continued to rain.

Tomorrow we head to Yellowstone so stay tuned.


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