Ely Center Is All about Bears
A fascinating interpretive center in Ely offers detailed insights into the lives of the black bears that roam Minnesota's northern woods. The North American Bear Center, which opened in 2007, is based on years of research by well-known bear biologist Lynn Rogers.
Several televisions in the center run extensive footage featuring, as Rogers explains, "undisturbed bears doing their own thing in the woods around Ely." The videos and exhibits portray bear body language, courtship behavior, life in a bear den, care of young cubs, and bear play. Visitors can listen to bear growls, moans, grunts and other sounds and learn what they signify. They can see the many berries and other vegetation that bears eat. A television documentary about black bears is shown in the theater.
The Cub Room uses kid-friendly activities to teach children about bears. In an artificial bear den, kids watch a video of a biologist doing field research on bears. Then, the kids serve as junior biologists who tranquilize teddy bears, weigh and measure them, and put on a radio collar for bear tracking. There are books parents can read to their children, and touch-and-see exhibits, where visitors can feel bear fur.
The focus is on black bears, but there is also information on grizzlies and how they differ from black bears. There are two mounts of grizzly bears and photo exhibits on black bears and grizzly bears. There's even a full skeleton of a prehistoric short-faced bear.
From the center windows and observation deck, visitors can watch three live bears -- a massive male, a honey-colored female and an orphaned cub -- in a two-acre wooded enclosure with a pond. Inside, there are updated field notes and video footage from current research on wild bears around Ely.
The Bear Center is located on Hwy. 169, one mile east of Ely. While you're in the area, be sure to also visit the International Wolf Center.