The North American Bear Center is the only Science/Nature museum of its kind. Dedicated to replacing old myths with facts, it lets people learn from the bears themselves about bear behavior, ecology, and their relations with humans.
Great things await you inside!
The most common expression we hear from first-time visitors as they step inside the door of the Bear Center is "Wow!"
A wall mural depicting area wildlife greets Bear Center visitors
Both polar, black, and brown/grizzly bear mounts in natural poses add to the mood. A huge life-size replica of an extinct short-face bear skeleton dominates the main exhibit area. A wall of windows overlooks the bear enclosure with its pond and waterfalls. Subtle background sounds of bears foraging, cubs nursing, and birds singing fill the air—all natural sounds that come from the 50+Exhibits featuring TVs playing high-definition video footage of wild black bears, brown/grizzly, and polar bears as they go about their daily activities in the forests.
Resident Bears...Ted, Lucky, and Honey
The Bear Center is also home to three resident black bears living in a 2.5 acre naturally forested enclosure with a pond and waterfalls. The bears forage on a progression of growing wild foods as enrichment. The Bear Enclosure is a model for how captive bears that cannot be released into the wild can live as natural a life as possible. Our Bear Keepers care for, and work with the bears in many ways to enrich their lives.
The bears can be viewed from the indoor viewing windows or the outdoor viewing balcony—both offering an excellent view of the pond and waterfall area that the bears frequent. People watch their interactions as they play, forage, swim, scent-mark, vocalize, climb trees, hibernate, and just be bears. In the process, these ambassador bears give viewers insights into the behavior of black bears that most could not see elsewhere.
- Lucky is a 5 year old male black bear, and is quite the comedian. We consider him our best ambassador for wild bears. Raised here in this setting of prime black bear habitat, Lucky lets visitors learn from him how wild bears live.
- Honey (our Sunshine bear) is a brown-phased black bear and is 16 years old. Her coat color changes with the 4 seasons.
Ted is a 15 year old black bear. He is the dominant bear. But he is calm, gentle, and just wants to be a lover !
The Cub Room
The 'Cub Room' beckons kids of all ages as they walk in the door. A TV in the Cub Room continuously plays video footage of a wild black bear mother and cub playing. The Cub Room also has a bear den to crawl in, a loft, educational posters and displays, a light table, and an activity table.
The Bear Center also features a theater playing the best in bear videos, including the BBC’s full-length documentary, “Bearwalker of the Northwoods.”
Interpretive Nature Trails
Learn about wild bear foods, dens, and bear signs on our self-guided, quarter-mile interpretive outdoor nature trails.
Bear Necessities Gift Shop
Shop our large selection of bear-themed merchandise and unique custom made products. Enjoy the Northwoods Wildlife Gallery.
Daily Programs And Events
Visit our website or call the Bear Center for current list of programs. Ask about our special Photographers’ Program for an up-close viewing and photo opportunity of the resident bears
Never has education been more important. Bear habitat is shrinking worldwide as people move into that habitat and refuse to coexist with animals they fear. The future of the bears that live around these people depends upon knowledge and attitude. The mission of the North American Bear Center is to advance the long-term survival of wild bear populations through education.
The videos of wild bears featured in the Bear Center let people learn from the bears themselves. They include videos on vocalizations, body language, mating, fighting, nursing, hibernation, care of cubs, exiting from the den, foraging for different classes of food, various kinds of play, and weekly updated video on bear activities in the woods around Ely.
Our biologists’ kinder and gentler trust-based research methods that combine simple observation with modern technology are revealing more about black bear life than was learned with traps and tranquilizers. Attitudes change as the bears themselves refute our most deeply held misconceptions.
Located one mile west of Ely
1926 Highway 169, Ely, MN. 55731
Telephone: 218-365-7879 / Toll free: 877-365-7879