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“Informative, and a bit iconoclastic” 5 of 5 stars
Review of North American Bear Center

North American Bear Center
1926 Hwy 169 (1 mile west of Ely), Ely, MN 55731
+1 866-365-7879
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Ranked #4 of 26 things to do in Ely
Certificate of Excellence 2014
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Attraction details
Owner description: The North American Bear Center is the only educational facility of its kind - it helps people learn from the bears themselves about bear behavior, ecology, and their relations with humans. There is a huge need for accurate information about bears worldwide and the mission of the non-profit North American Bear Center is to advance the long-term survival of bears worldwide by replacing misconceptions with scientific facts about bears
Denver, Colorado, USA
Top Contributor
67 reviews 67 reviews
9 attraction reviews
Reviews in 49 cities Reviews in 49 cities
51 helpful votes 51 helpful votes
“Informative, and a bit iconoclastic”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 4, 2013

One could spend a whole day here, reading, looking at photos and videos, listening to staff talks. We had just an hour or two, but it was worth the time. If you meet a brown bear, be sure it knows you are a person and not a bear; i.e., talk to it (while backing away). That made us a lot more comfortable when we went blueberry picking a couple of days later. This center is taking a different approach to research and that is controversial in the wildlife community, but lockstep thinking won't advance knowledge all that much. The photos of play are endearing, of course.

Visited August 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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158 reviews from our community

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Baltimore, MD
Top Contributor
100 reviews 100 reviews
27 attraction reviews
Reviews in 47 cities Reviews in 47 cities
92 helpful votes 92 helpful votes
“Live bears and lots of great photography”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2013

If you're a "Bearhead" or a "Lilypadder" you might already be familiar with the work of Dr. Lynn Rogers, in which case you don't need this review because stopping at the NABC is probably the top priority on your list. If you don't know who the guy is and just like bears, that's okay too, stop by because you'll enjoy it without needing to know who Dr. Rogers is or about the local hooha going on with the DNR.

The main attraction is live black bears wandering around a beautiful natural enclosure, with lots of room to walk through gardens and swim in a pool. Often only one or two of the bears are out for viewing and also they go into dens for hibernation in the fall, so summer is best time to see them. They are fun to watch and you can get good photography from an outdoor deck if you're into that. Please note that the three live bears on display (Honey, Lucky and Ted) were raised in captivity by persons not associated with Dr. Rogers and thus could not be released back into the wild, so they needed an alternative captive living situation and thus were brought to live at the Center. They are also NOT the collared study bears that are the subject of the DNR action.

There is a "cub room" with things for kids to see and do, and some very cool photography galleries featuring excellent photos of bears. Also many big taxidermied bears and a giant taxidermied moose - I have to admit these all put me off a little since it's weird to be seeing live animals walking around a few yards from the same animals stuffed and mounted - but kids will likely just go "whoa a giant moose!" and not be squicked out.

The rest of the Center consists mostly of many videos (some with audio) accompanied by placards, discussing aspects of black bear behavior like fighting, mating, raising cubs in a den, etc. A lot of these videos have been on the Internet so I didn't feel a need to watch every one of them in depth right there at the Center, however you will probably find out something new about bears even if you just watch a few. I enjoyed the audio display on bear sounds and was impressed that everything in the museum was in good working order. There are also exhibits on how people perceive bears now and in the past, which I found interesting, but might be too much information for those with just a casual interest. It also looks like certain parts of the Center are sort of "under construction" and being further developed as time goes by, which may depend on future funding ability, so not sure how those will end up, but there is a lot to see even without them.

The BBC documentary "Bearwalker of the North Woods" about Dr. Rogers' work plays continuously in the theater. I enjoyed a chance to see it straight through but be warned it is kind of intense - bears mate, bears die, bears get killed by hunters, etc.

Note: you can't take food or drink in here, and they don't serve any (except little giftboxed snacks at the Gift Shop) so plan accordingly. Your admission ticket is good for all day, meaning they do let you leave and come back later if you need to take a break for lunch or whatever.

Visited August 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York, USA
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
11 attraction reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Interesting but a little disappointed”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2013

We came in here after having been at the International Wolf Center and perhaps that is where the disappointment comes from. We didn't see either bear, although later on saw the bear's behind in the little hide that they'd built. It was very interesting in terms of the artwork and historical information though.

Visited July 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“A fantastic place headed by a brilliant man”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2013

The research Dr Rogers has done and continues to do is phenomenal. He is probably the number one black bear authority in the world. He, Sue Mansfield, and staff are dedicated professionals. The world of animals is a better place thanks to them.

Visited July 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Mankato, Minnesota, United States
Senior Contributor
48 reviews 48 reviews
25 attraction reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
“Too Bad it May Be Closing”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 21, 2013

We actually visited the bear center a few years back, but went by again last week. It has recently been getting a lot of news coverage with the state wanting to shut it down. I believe they feel the individual collaring and studying the bears is making them too used to human contact and in turn, may pose a threat to the community. Famous researchers such as Jane Goodall have spoke on his behalf. What will become of his studies, I cannot predict. It is a very interesting center with a few web cams on active bear dens. Much to be learned by humans.

Visited August 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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