You may have noticed a theme running strongly through my blog. Animals. When ever we get a whiff of a good animal experience we just have to check it out, and in Sitka we found two. The Alaska Raptor Centre and the Fortress of the Bear.
The Raptor Centre was established back in 1980, in a backyard with one bald eagle. In 1991 they moved
to their present 17 acre site. They care for sick and injured birds and ideally nurse them back to health so they can be released into the wild. For those birds too badly injured to be able to survive in the wild they join the Raptors-in-Residence team and have a home for life at the centre.
I was particularly impressed with the large semi-indoor flight training area for the bald eagles. We could look in and see them but they could not see us. The reason being that many of these birds will be released and the centre doesn’t want them getting too use to humans.
Unlike the Raptor Release programme, in the state of Alaska there is no bear rehabilitation programme. Orphaned cubs are routinely shot by the Department of Fish and Game for lack of an alternative. Until Fortress of the Bear came along in 2007. The centre’s goal is to work with this Alaskan Department to one day change the law to allow the release of rehabbed bears back into the wild.
The centre has 3 black and 5 brown bears. Each bear has their own story and our guide is delighted to talk about each of them. To say we were captivated by them is putting it extremely mildly!
Both these centres are not-for-profit organizations, and rely solely on admission fees and donations for funding. So when I win the lottery…..
The Raptor Centre is close to town so an easy to walk there. The Fortress of the Bear is out of town so to get there, it is either a tour, a $20 taxi fare or catch the community bus $2pp ($5 day pass). We chose the bus (now there is a surprise!) which was fun and it stops 200ms from the entrance.
Entrance to the Bears was $10pp and the Raptors was $13pp.
If possible go on a day when there is no cruise ship in, as both of these are the main attractions for cruise passengers. How do you know when a cruise boat is due? there is an app for it most locals have on their phones!
We stayed at the gorgeous little Biorka Street Guesthouse, thoroughly recommend it. Close to everything and the hosts are great.
Another wonderful Alaskan animal day out is Kroeshel Wildlife Centre in Haines.