Sunday, August 21, 2016


Beautiful Bella --- This girl has quite a personality.

Roger here....  Our journey has taken us from Great Falls to Bozeman, Montana for two nights.  The drive along I-15 was awesome.  
Quick photos through the window as we drove

What scenery!  But, why Bozeman?  After not seeing grizzlies at Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies, we wanted to ensure grizzly bear sightings, and sightings we had. 

Entrance to Montana Grizzly Encounter
A little background information...  A couple of years ago Dianne and I stumbled upon a program on the National Geographic Channel entitled America the Wild.  (Click link to learn more).  The premise of this real-life documentary centered around outdoorsmen and wildlife advocate, Casey Anderson, and his drive to rescue grizzly bears that would not be able to survive in the wild.  He also studied grizzlies and other wildlife in their natural settings.  I added it to our itinerary when I discovered that Bozeman would only be a little bit out of our way.

Casey Anderson's Montana Grizzly Encounter - More Info

Ten-Year-Old Brutus (foreground) with Bella 
 Casey's first bear, Brutus (which he refers to as his best friend), was rescued from an unethical breeding facility at the age of two months.  When Casey and his friend Ami acquired Brutus (who now weighs just under 900 pounds), they created  a large, outdoor, bear-friendly enclosure complete with ponds, hills, shade, and boulders.  Since grizzlies can bond with humans before the age of two-years, Brutus views them as his parents.  Unfortunately, we were only able to get one decent picture of Brutus, who has done movie roles with Casey.  Just after we arrived, he lumbered over to a spot behind a shady boulder where he remained :-(.

Bears on the other side of this wall
Back to our visit...  We arrived at the Montana Grizzly Encounter mid-morning, paid a very reasonable $6 admission fee and parked next to the rustic enclosure.  

Cool Little Souvenir Shop
A trip through the gift store was necessary in order for us to get to the bears.  Dianne bought a t-shirt and I bought a hat on the way out.  We did not feel guilty spending money that goes directly back into the rescue center.  This is my kind of place.

A photo-op next to a couple of giant teddy bears was also required --- not really.

When we turned a corner, we entered the viewing area where Brutus and Bella were wandering around inside the enclosure.  A docent greeted us, answered questions, and provided great information about the bears and their backgrounds as we watched their every move.  After a few minutes, I realized that I had been smiling since seeing the two bears.  

The bears (five in all) are released from their dens into the enclosure two at a time.  Brutus is almost always released with Bella.  We had just missed the two of them playing.

Two-Year-Old Bella Posing by the Pond

Bella was abandoned by her mother in Alaska before learning the necessary skills of survival that the mothers must teach to the cubs.  Survival techniques are not instinctive to grizzlies.  

Bella Modeling Her Paw

These pictures of Bella posing in front of the pond (and she did act like she was posing for the cameras) were taken less than 10 feet from Bella.  There were no walls or bars between us, to speak.  It almost seemed as if we were in the enclosure with them.  We were totally safe, however, since a moat and an electric fence protected us.

The view of two-year old Bella (320 pounds) below gives a better perspective of the enclosure.  They evidently love to play in the ponds.

During our morning visit, Bella provided all of the entertainment.  While Brutus lounged behind his rock, occasionally raising his head.  Bella wandered all around.  Bella stopped to look at us.  Bella picked up a log and tossed it and climbed up on a boulder.  Her twitching nose was working constantly.  Grizzlies can smell food from three miles away!   The staff always hides treats in various locations in the enclosure before each outing.  What a ham!

Look at me!  I can sit down just like you humans.  (I can also stand up on two feet, but an extra donation is required for me to show you that).

In the photo below Bella picked up a small stick between her four-inch claws, held it for a while, looked at it, then threw it away.

Look!  I found a stick.

Look how scary I can be!
Clown that Bella was, Dianne was able to get one serious shot of her as she advanced straight toward us.  She was not really being aggressive, but had we been hiking, my hand would have been on the bear spray.  

We spent quite a bit of time entranced by Bella and her antics before deciding to drive into Bozeman for lunch and then returning in the afternoon.  

Outdoor Seating at the Bacchus Brew Pub
Bozeman is a very inviting college town (Montana State University).  The Bacchus Brew Pub just off the lobby of an old hotel had tasty food and microbrews.

Our $6 admission (for seniors) allowed us to return to Grizzly Encounter without charge that same day or the next.  We knew we'd see different bears in the afternoon, so back we went.

Maggi and Jake were in the enclosure when we returned for our afternoon visit.  They were both rescued from an unethical breeding environment where they could not be properly cared for at a young age.  This is their third home.  They are currently five years old.  Since they were older when they arrived at Montana Grizzly Encounter, they are not fully bonded to Casey and Ami.

Maggi and Jake

Maggi says, "I just turned in a circle, now I'm going over here."
It was very interesting to watch how their personalities differed from those of Brutus and Bella.  Maggi was not an attention-seeker like Bella, but she was every bit as active.  She did not stop moving the entire time we were there.  

Maggi says, "Now I'm going over there."

Jake moved around more that Brutus, but his movements were not constant.  He seemed to lumber from point to point before plopping down for a rest.

Jake says, "Check out my claws."

Jake says, "That ten-yard walk was exhausting.  I need to lay down."

I wish that this picture of Maggi and Jake nuzzling was clearer.  It brought a round of aaaahs from the viewing area.

Montana Grizzly Encounters is a wonderful place. We were able to closely and leisurely observe the bears in a natural setting.  We know due to the young ages of the bears when they were rescued, that they would not be able to survive in the wild.  It is not a zoo for the frivolity of people.  It is a rescue center for the bears.  We know that the bears have a lifelong home at the center.  We know that our purchases and admission fees help to maintain the facility.  I am still smiling.

Our day in Bozeman was capped off by an awesome sunset:

We are in Ennis, Montana right now.  Tomorrow we plan to visit the original state capital of Montana (now a ghost town), Virginia City.

The pet picture of the day is our two buddies already in their place for the next leg of our trip.  They can always tell when it's time to pack up.
Where we goin' now??


Diane and Rich said...

great pictures. Have enjoyed following along on your trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Nancy and Bill said...

This entire post made me smile and say AHHHHHHHH:o)))

klbexplores said...

Loved your Grizzly Pics..... I was recently at Glacier and saw 9 bears.....all grizzlies but one. I really need to get the posts up on the blog. One encounter was the one that is being talked about at Avalanche Lake.....Way to close!! You got much better pictures though!!