Who we are: Many years ago a Minnesota logger made a decision that would affect the black bear and the attitudes that people have of this often misunderstood animal. Vince Shute chose to stop shooting the bears that broke into his cabins and found a way to peacefully coexist with them. In his own words, he claimed, "The bears weren't mean, just hungry!" So he tried a more peaceful approach, feeding the bears that broke into his cabin, the strategy worked - no more break-ins. Thus began Vince's celebrated life with the black bears in the north woods near Orr, Minnesota.
We now know enough about bears to know that they never should have been fed, however, this now provides a unique opportunity to learn about these misunderstood animals. We now manage this pre-existing situation and strive to educate people about these amazing animals and how to co-exist with them. The sanctuary offers a safe place for the population of black bears in the northwoods of Minnesota and allows people to see these bears in their natural habitat, exhibiting natural behaviors such as courting, nursing, playing, and naturally foraging, all of which are typically rare behaviors for people to see in the wild.
Our ultimate goal is peaceful coexistence between humans and bears. All of the sanctuary bears are wild and free-roaming. Thanks to the generosity of people like you, we are able to continue managing this population and are able to continue our important outreach and educational efforts.
Our Dream: As a non-profit, we are only able to continue our work thanks to the hard work and dedication of all the people who volunteer and intern with us. Days are long, starting as early as 6:30 a.m. and sometimes ending after 9 p.m. We work hard every day with diet prep, educational outreach, grounds maintenance, and a whole lot of heavy lifting to ensure that the bears are properly taken care of. In addition, we need to make sure we are prepared for our visitors five nights a week. This includes parking vehicles, selling tickets and checking online people in, running our gift shop and visitor center (located off-site), transporting the public to the viewing platform via buses while giving a brief history of the sanctuary, educating the public, giving educational talks, and keeping the bears feed. Working with the bears may be hard work, but it is also rewarding to see the difference we can make in both the bears’ lives and the many people who visit us in a season. Living conditions at the sanctuary are rustic, to say the least. Staff stay in cabins with no electricity and no running water and our porta-johns are shared by all staff and the 15,000 visitors we see in a season. Our closest laundromat is located 20 minutes away so when our staff have to do laundry, they must sacrifice their break to haul their laundry into town. We are so thankful to everyone who works hard to keep the sanctuary operating smoothly and we would like to give back to them! We are so close to completing our 'Accommodations Project'! This will bring showers, laundry and flushing toilets to the sanctuary-finally!! We are working closely with Ideal Homes out of Barnum, MN to create this dream facility! We have recently finalized the blueprints and are excited that this facility will be built over winter and delivered to the sanctuary in the early summer of 2024!
How can YOU help? Please donate and Share with your Friends!
This has been a lengthy and costly process, but it is our dream to provide our team with a facility that has running water for showers, a bathroom, and a laundry facility. Since it is such a big project to take on, we have divided it into two phases.
Phase 1: Install a septic system- COMPLETED THANKS TO YOUR GENEROUS GIVE MN 2020 DONATIONS!
Phase 2: Build a facility that has showers, bathrooms, and laundry for our team- We are still in the process of raising funds for this with the 2023 Give MN fundraiser!
We’ve completed Phase 1 thanks to everyone who donated in 2020! The next step to make this BIG dream happen is to start building the shower, bathroom, and laundry facility, and we expect this to cost over $100,000! Help us reach our goal!
Your generous donation to The American Bear Association will ensure that we can continue to promote peaceful coexistence through education and provide a safe place for adult bears and their cubs.