Seeing grizzly bears and wolves in the wild is nothing short of breathtaking, and also somewhat rare. These elusive creatures, particularly wolves, prefer to keep to themselves. Spotting them is a combination of luck and dedication. Fortunately, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center (GWDC) in West Yellowstone, Montana, provides the opportunity to see these beautiful animals up close and personal, and to learn about their lifestyles and behaviors through interpretive and interactive programs. All animals at the center are unable to survive on their own in the wild.
Six grizzlies are living here, all which had become nuisance bears, or were the orphaned cubs of nuisance bears. Meaning, they had learned to get food from people, damage property in search of food, or became aggressive toward people. Instead of destroying the bears, they were rescued and have become ambassadors to teach people about their species. The bears have a significant outdoor habitat and are rotated in and out throughout the day. If you’re visiting with children ages 5-12, the Keeper Kids program is fantastic. After a 30-minute program about grizzly eating habits, they assist a Naturalist into the bear habitat to hide food for the bears and observe them finding it!
Seven wolves that call GWDC home were born in captivity and are unable to live in the wild. The facilities they were born into did not have enough room to keep them, so they were brought to live at the center. Tall grasses, logs, trees, ponds, and a waterfall all provide a natural environment, and they get stimulation from the Naturalists hiding bones and a sprinkling of spices or other scents.
May through November is a seasonal raptor exhibit, full of birds of prey that are not releasable into the wild. Some have been hit by vehicles, others have behavioral challenges, but all enjoy the special care they receive at the center. During the colder months, the raptors are taken care of off-exhibit.
New to the center is the Banks of the Yellowstone Riparian Otter Exhibit. Before the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone in 1995, the riparian habitats, including willow and aspens, were overgrazed due to the growing elk population. Since the reintroduction, riparian areas began flourishing, providing excellent habitat for these little creatures. Plus, these playful otters are full of energy and are heartwarming to observe.
While the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus, they are broadcasting Live on Facebook, giving you a glimpse into the day to day life of these precious animals. We’ve compiled the first week of videos for you to enjoy until the day you can stop in yourself. Enjoy!