One of our first stops was at Bear World in Rexburg, Idaho. I polled my Facebook friends and heard a mixed verdict on Bear World beforehand. Some said that it was worth doing once, others said it was the highlight of their trip, and others wished they hadn’t wasted the money. I decided to chance it.
When we first arrived at Bear World, we were pretty excited to see all of the bears. You will see more bears at Bear World than at any of the other venues. Later, we came to realize that things were actually pretty boring when we arrived–mid-afternoon is bear naptime. But given our newbie bear-watching status (on our last trip to Yellowstone we didn’t see any bears), the sight of an ear here, and furry paws there was enough to make all of us wild with excitement: “Look! A bear! Look! A bear! Look! Look!”
After our first drive-through we stopped to enjoy the petting zoo and pose for photos at the bear cutouts. Then the baby bears (which are kept in a separate special area) woke up and began to play. Baby bears are seriously cute!
The best was yet to come. On Facebook, our friend Cameron had offered a key tip: Don’t pay extra to go on the curator tour. Do follow the curator truck around. Following his advice, when they announced the tour over the PA system, we ran to our car. We were lucky to get right behind the curator truck just as Cameron had suggested. It was awesome! Almost every bear in the park wakes up and comes out for the food truck. Where before we had just seen sleeping bits of fuzz, we now saw bears standing and begging for food, bears sitting and begging for food, bears clustering around the food truck, and bears right next to our car. At one point we were worried for the safety of our van! It was great.
Tips for Bear World: 1) Bear World requires that you roll your windows up. If you hope to take photos, make sure your car windows are scrupulously clean. Ours were bug-splattered and it is obvious on many of the photos we took. 2) Find out when the curator tours will take place and be ready to jump in your car and go at the appropriate time. 3) If at first you don’t see many or only sleeping bears, wait, and do the drivethrough again in another hour or so.
I do still worry a bit about the ethical issues involved with Bear World. It’s a neat experience for humans, but is it wrong to do to the bears? The issue that most concerns me is how they remove the cubs from their mothers at such a young age. Is that okay? I know that many of these cubs would be killed by other bears if they were not removed, but I still believe it is the case that the cubs are removed for our convenience and safety, not theirs. Do mother bears and their cubs have a sense of emotional loss?
To be continued . . .