We never did get to that bear sanctuary, but we did visit the North American Bear Center as well as the International Wolf Center, both just a mile or so from Ely, MN where we were staying. These centers have bears and wolves on the premises that can not be released into the wild; their mission is to educate and raise awareness about these animals. Since they are located in an area with healthy bear and wolf populations, a large part of their message is dedicated to finding a balanced interaction between humans and these wild predators.
It wasn't long ago that by government mandate wolves were to be eradicated from the continental U.S. People believed that because of competition for game and the threat to livestock and humans that this was a prudent response, and American wolves were nearly wiped out.
Bears have not fared much better. Although not systematically targeted for extinction, in most places, any bear that comes too close to populated places will most likely be shot because of the unpredictable peril it poses.
I left Ely feeling that we people have a lot of work to do to re-establish an equilibrium with these creatures, not to mention the coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, and the surplus deer population that we have.
All of this was on my mind this evening when I read the news about the bear rampage in Yellowstone last night. The details are still emerging, but one man is dead and two people are injured after a bear tore through their tent campsite just 5 miles from the entrance gate to the park. It looks like this is just another tragic consequence of our failure to find a way to dwell peaceably with the other animals in our world.