The final stop on our three part Sitka shore excursion was the Fortress of the Bear, a bear rescue organization founded by Les and Evy Kinnear, who saw the need for a sanctuary for Alaska's orphaned bears. The State of Alaska currently has no provision in state law for raising and releasing young bears back into the wild, so orphaned bears are usually killed. If young bears can be captured and brought to Fortress of the Bear, they can live out their lives here or sometimes be transferred to zoos, wildlife parks or other similar organizations.
|An Alaskan Brown Bear at Fortress of the Bear, Sitka, AK|
Along the way, our tour bus driver, told us some of the history of the area.
Alaskan Brown Bears at the Fortress of the Bears
|Viewing Platform at Fortress of the Bear|
|Sign about Killisnoo the Bear|
The sow, Toby and her two brothers, Ballou and Lucky arrived at the center in 2010 when they were about one and a half years old. It was determined that their mother had died from an intestinal blockage caused by plastic bags that she ingested while eating garbage. Toby has learned some signing to communicate with the staff and lets them know when she wants more food
|Old pulp mill converted to a bear compound - Sitka, Alaska|
Our tour leader, pointed out a recently added passageway which connects two of the compounds and provides a way for the two groups of previously separated bears to meet and interact.
|Alaska brown bears - Sitka, Alaska|
Since the passage was installed the two groups have started interacting and it appears that these two in particular were enjoying each other's company.
|Two Alaskan Brown Bears splashing in the water|
It was very entertaining to watch these huge bears noisily playing together in the water.
|Two Alaskan Brown Bears at play - Sitka, Alaska|
|Alaska Brown Bears - Sitka, AK|
Black Bears at the Fortress of the BearOur next stop on the tour was the black bear compound, The Fortress of the Bear is also home to three orphaned black bears. Sisters Smokey and Tuli and an unrelated male, Bandit, all arrived in 2013.
|Black Bears - Sitka, AK|
Smokey and Tuli's were found after their mother was shot. They also had a third sibling who was never captured and is presumed to have died, since these two sisters were in very poor condition when the were brought to Fortress of the Bear.
|Black bear sisters, Smokey and Tuli at Fortress of the Bears|
Bandit was found orphaned in Juneau after climbing up in a crab apple tree in someone's yard. The details about what happened to his mother are unknown. Bandit can easily be identified in the photo below. He is the bear with the white heart-shaped patch on his chest.
|Three black bears|
|Black bears climbing a tree at Fortress of the Bears|
|An Alaskan Brown Bear up close and personal|
The Fortress of the Bear is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that receives no government funding, They are funded solely by visitor admission fees, donations and proceeds from items sold in their gift shop. Their long term goal is to work toward changing the state laws of Alaska to allow rehabilitation and release of bears back into the wild as is done in 29 other states. If you are interested in more information or would like to support their work, you can visit their website: Fortress of the Bear.
At the end of our visit, we boarded the bus and returned to Sitka with a little time to do some walking around town, including a visit to the historic St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral.