One of my favorite childhood memories of all time was visiting the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone over 10 years ago. As the grey wolf has long been my favorite animal (is it weird that I have a favorite?), it was a totally awe-striking experience to see them up close and not in a tiny pen, as they often are at the zoo.
I have often found that when childhood highlights are revisited, they often seem less grand and less awesome. This was not the case with the GWDC. I was just as excited as last time, and with some new opinions on animal captivity was relieved to see that the animals appeared to be extremely well cared for. The employees would hide food for the bears to search for (scaring off probably a hundred ravens in the process who get first grabs at the hidden snacks), and the wolves ran through the pen playing with each other – all signs of happy animals.
The center is essentially a refuge for nuisance animals and those born in captivity. A bio of each animal is posted, and most were in threat of being exterminated by park officials because they were getting too cozy with humans. Instead of killing them, they are handed over to the non-profit organization where they can be cared for and serve as ambassadors for the rest of their species.
Among the park are various exhibits that chronicle wolf and bear interactions with humans. I thought it was very well done, and many of the exhibits encourage touching, feeling, or crawling. Bree, for instance, was able to crawl inside a bear trap which is used for relocating or tagging live animals without harming them.
All in all, I can’t say enough good things about the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. It far exceeded my expectations, and Bree even liked it too!