West Yellowstone, Montana: After a big driving day yesterday, we decided to take it easy today and visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, one block away from our campground. The center is open every day of the year (hours vary) and your admission ticket is good for two consecutive days. Again, we have visited several times prior, but there is always something new to see and they now have a river otter exhibit.
Imagine our surprise when we found a large group of children in the grizzly bear habitat upon our arrival! We learned children can enter the habitat to hide food (today they hid carrots, apples and dog food) under rocks and logs for the bear to find.
After the children have finished their job, they are herded out of the habitat, counted, counted, and recounted, then grizzly bears are let out and they immediately head for the rocky area (center of photo) and begin turning over rocks and limbs to get their goodies. Interestingly enough, at least 20 huge ravens also hang out on the rocks. The super-smart ravens watch where the kiddos put the grub, the bear can smell the grub, and between the two species, all treats are uncovered.
Twin sisters came out after the kids left the goodies. They were captured several years ago, with their mom, as they had moved into a town and were raiding park garbage cans, dumpsters, back yard bird feeders.... well, you know the story. The mom had to be put-down, but the girls remain here. Nearly every bear here has the same sad story, and often times it is because people feed them! Don't feed bears. Duh.
The wolf population at the center seem to have better luck with returning the animals back to the wild - usually in a small pack, and usually back to Yellowstone National Park.
This wolf was in an enclosure with three other wolves. Dave watched a worker put several really large (living) trout in the "stream" while the wolves were off-exhibit. (Window were washed at the same time.) As soon as the canines were released back to the stream area, one of them immediately jumped into the water and began fishing with his mouth and paws. He caught a fish right away, and carried it to the bank, proceeded to eat the entire head off the fish in two bites, then left the remainder of the fish for his cronies. He went directly back into the water, catching three or four more fish, eating the head, and leaving the rest for others. The three other wolves dragged the fish up to a shady corner. Another wolf dug-up a a leg bone (cow?) and carried it up to the picnic spot... where they all gathered and had themselves a fine feast. Sushi. No peach cobbler for dessert though.
We walked through the birds of prey exhibit (eagles, hawks) to the new river otter exhibit. It is quite impressive and we saw three otter frolicking in the waterfalls. They looked like they were having fun. I did not learn if they were being rehabbed, or were on permanent display.
We visited the bear and wolf exhibits a few times, as there is constant change and constant rotation of animals. One could easily spend an entire morning or afternoon here. After a spin through the gift shop (Leo and Lucy are no longer interested in stuffed animals, so this saves a bunch of time and money), we continued on foot to downtown West Yellowstone. There are two or three "main" streets that are fronted with tourist shops, ice cream shops, coffee shops, bars, fly fishing shops, tee shirt shops... well, you surely know the drill. Dave and I wanted to up our binocular game. Ours are teeny and don't have much power, as we used them for track meets. We needed "big game" binoculars, and found a nice pair - on sale - at a fly fishing shop. Postcards were procured.
One last thing on our shopping list: new coasters. 20+ years ago, we purchased a set of four sandstone coasters in a little wooden rack to use in our RV. Sandstone is a great material for coasters, as they protect the furniture AND absorb moisture. Over the years, the coasters have become a bit blackened and not very appetizing. One thing we were going to look for on this trip was another set of sandstone coasters with a "National Park" or other related theme. (Our first coasters were SW Native American fertility symbols - and, well, we still have only one child.) Today, we found sandstone coasters and bought two. We don't need four, and we don't need a coaster rack either. Done!
Next we found a bison burger for lunch. We asked shopkeepers where to find the best bison burger in town and the same two restaurants were often mentioned. One was closed today, so we went to the other - The Buffalo Bar. they had outdoor seating and great service. We were helped this afternoon by a local kid who is at Eastern Washington University. He comes home in the summer to cash-up for the school year. When we told him our friend taught there, we were surprised to learn our friend was his anthropology professor. How random is that!
We shared, but could not finish our food. Tromped back to our campsite - our 10000 step goal easily met.
Random things/seen/heard today: 1) A grown woman eating Bugels for breakfast, and washing them down with a Diet Coke. 2) A guy in a tourist gift shop explaining to the clerk that he will never go on a Caribbean cruise because he can’t bring his gun onboard. He said he needs to protect himself.