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“Small but well-curated museum” 5 of 5 stars
Review of High Desert Museum

High Desert Museum
59800 South Highway 97, Bend, OR 97702-7963
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Ranked #1 of 71 things to do in Bend
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Activities: Viewing wildlife
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Attraction details
Owner description: Explore the nature, culture and spirit of the High Desert through fun, interactive, indoor and outdoor exhibits with live animals, live historical performers, a re-created pioneer town and ranch, Western art, extensive Native American collection and special programs for all ages.
Burnaby, Canada
Senior Contributor
26 reviews 26 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Small but well-curated museum”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 21, 2012

We enjoyed the presentations on forest health and management options. We enjoyed walking the paths and learning about the high desert environment. Small displays for the most part, but informative and well-thought out. The story of the lynx on display was sad--an abandoned "pet" that was rescued near-death.

Visited September 2012
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673 reviews from our community

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English first
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Great visit”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 20, 2012

We as a family went for the first time and found it high class. The butterflies and hummingbird exhibit right now was a lot of fun. Though only 6 hummingbirds, they could use more. But the butterflies were fabulous for sure. We loved it so much we bought the yearly pass, it will be a great winter escape to enjoy an indoor activity here in Bend.

Visited October 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Top Contributor
61 reviews 61 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 33 cities Reviews in 33 cities
61 helpful votes 61 helpful votes
“Mixed Review”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 20, 2012

I wish I could rate the Museum higher than this but the animal "exhibits" really ruined the experience for me and my Husband which is a shame.

The Museum portion is truly excellent and the collection of artefacts really quite superb especially the collection of Native American Artefacts. The exhibit on the American Bison was also fascinating as were the panels on invasive species and changes to the local natural environment.

Now I must come to the part which I find deeply, deeply disturbing and which truly upset me. The animal kept in tiny vivariums and glass cages, from insects and reptiles to mammals such as a Lynx and Bobcat.
Both creatures looking dejected and not surprisingly bored out of their brains.

Even creatures such as Lizards and Snakes should not be imprisoned in spaces which are the equivalent of being stuck in one tiny box room for the rest of your life as a human. We would all go mad and those creatures deserve better.

I realise this is the most popular part of the museum ( most children seem to love it though one perspicacious young man refused to be dragged to the Bobcat cage again screaming and crying that "It looked so sad"). His Grand-Father looked crestfallen but I felt very proud of this tiny rebel with so much visceral understanding of a serious issue.

The Museum is set in beautiful in huge grounds. Why did the Museum curators think it was appropriate to imprison those creatures in tiny enclosures when so much space was available for much more spacious quarters and quarters which could reproduce their natural habitats so much better ?

In essence part of the Museum is a zoo and a bad one which to my mind is inflicting great cruelty on its residents.

I realise that being a hater of Zoos I might not be the target audience but I feel that the Museum missed a great "trick" of being more humane to the animals and making it far more interesting for visitors too.

I do not believe a Bocat should be in a cage but if it is going to be , having been bred in captivity ( at least I hope it was) it should have a little more space to roam, to hide and to do a minimum of more natural activities.

Animals are not here for our entertainment, and I find it sad that they are treated as such and in such terrible conditions.

I was so upset after walking through the indoors animal exhibits that I could not face the outdoors ones and had to wait for my husband. He came back telling me the horrors without including a Golden Eagle in a tiny aviary which he described as being smaller than the one his father used to have for quails !

The Museum itself truly is fascinating, beautifully curated and the exhibits are interesting and thought provoking. I learnt much and genuinely loved it.

I only wish as much thought had been put into the live exhibits which were to my mind as cruel as cruel can be bar actually abusing the animal physically. What kind of lessons are we giving children by telling them that we can imprison creatures and what do they learn from having an insect, reptle, mammal in an environment so far removed from their natural habitat ?

Their behaviour will teach us nothing as it will be atypical and I find it intellectually disingenuous to pretend it has any educational value.

Especially when such wonderful grounds are available and so much space available.

The Museum could be Great, I genuinely believe that but it falls short on such crucial issues that I cannot give a higher mark than average.

Could do so much better.

The staff was extremely friendly and efficient though, I feel I ought to give credit where it is due .

Visited September 2012
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Meltrier, Guest Relations Manager at High Desert Museum, responded to this review, October 22, 2012
The High Desert Museum would like to address your concerns.
Nearly all of our animals have been rescued, and have appropriate and humane homes here, where they receive the highest quality of care. These animals cannot survive in the wild, typically because they had suffered injuries in the wild, were born in captivity, or have other disabilities.
The forested atriums homes for our bobcat and lynx were approved by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, a contracted veterinarian specialist in wild, large cats and the Museum’s team of museum and wildlife professionals. Our team not only provides high quality care for these animals, which has improved their health dramatically, they continuously interact with these cats to ensure that they are enriched.
Our bobcat had been kept as a pet in a private home by someone who could no longer care for her. Having had been de-clawed, she cannot hunt or survive in the wild. She is 12 years old, the average lifespan of a bobcat in the wild. She will enjoy a much longer, high quality life here, however, because of this shelter which is appropriate for her age, as well as the outstanding care and she receives.
Our lynx was also likely to have been kept as a pet, because its fangs and claws had been removed before it was found starving in a state park in California.

The spaces for our rescued raptors at the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center are approved by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Our eagles here had suffered wing injuries in the wild and cannot fly. Our aviaries are suited exactly to birds that cannot fly. Spaces that are too high could allow flightless birds to fall and suffer leg injuries. These outdoor, natural, yet protected spaces afford them the highest quality of life possible.
The snakes and lizards in our Desertarium are cared for by our expertly trained keepers, and are housed in accordance with best practices for reptiles.
The Museum is home to more than 100 rescued, live wild animals for an important reason: this nonprofit institution educates thousands from around the West, the nation and the world about conservation issues, inspiring them with unique, fun and enriching programs about High Desert nature and culture.

Thank you for visiting, and for sharing our interest in providing the highest standard of care for our rescued animals.
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Sisters, Oregon
Top Contributor
86 reviews 86 reviews
33 attraction reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
“Great Free Visit!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 19, 2012

When we learned the museum would be offering free visits for seniors we went and had a great time. The butterfly exhibits both live and mounted were outstanding. Enjoyed walking the trails and really chuckled to find the old outhouse building covered a :honey bucket" type of toilet! Not exactly authentic but usable!!! It was most interesting!

Visited October 2012
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Ashland, OR
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
“So much to see”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 17, 2012

We intended to just stop in but ended up staying 3 hours and we didn't even read all of the plaques. We saw the Birds of Prey talk and the Porcupine talk and they were fascinating. The entrance fee was appropriate for a museum and we really enjoyed this part of our trip.

Visited October 2012
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