Justin and I just returned from a trip out west and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful vacations we have ever been on. We debated driving out west for quite a while but when realized how long it could take we decided to fly. I need to really focus on saving my PTO days for the spring!
We ended up starting our trip in Idaho Falls to try to complete an item on my 30 Before 30 list. Really, this was the sole reason for our vacation. #6, hold a baby bear, is kind of an odd bucket list item, but I was bound and determined to get as close as I could to completing it. As it turns out getting someone to let you hold a baby bear is kind of difficult, but I do believe it is possible. However, I didn’t think at this point, with a baby on the way, it was going to happen before the big 3-0 came along. So, I decided it was ok to settle and found a place in Idaho that would allow us to bottle feed cubs. We flew in to Idaho so we could visit, Yellowstone Bear World.
And for those that don’t know, I will provide a very brief back story about why this item was even on my list to begin with. When I was a young kid at Lily Lake Elementary I repeatedly checked out the same book from the library. It was a book about bears, my favorite animal, and inside had a picture of someone holding the cutest and cuddliest baby bear. Ever since then, I have always dreamt of holding one myself.
On Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel in Idaho Falls and drove about 25 minutes or so to Rexburg, Idaho. It was a bit rainy, but all in all, it was the most prefect day to bottle feed some baby bears. We got there about an hour before feed time, which was recommended. We had some time to kill after checking in so we bought some gifts from the gift shop, including baby Bradshaw’s first teddy bear, and spent a lot of time watching the bear cubs play before their feeding.
The bears were born in late January/early February so they were already about 70 – 80 pounds. Picking one up at this point in the year was clearly not an option. I have trouble with my 40 pound goldendoodle, so a seven month bear cub would have been real tough. I was still beyond excited to get up close and personal during feeding though.
They brought about 10 of us into the first enclosure that had three cubs. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take any videos or photos while we in the enclosures because it tends to distract the bears from the task at hand…eating! The youngest person in our group was four and a half, and the oldest was probably in his 50s. They allowed us to feed the bears a half bottle each to hopefully allow each person to meet and pet all of the cubs.
Once the handlers got the bears situated, they would invite us forward to hold the bottle and pet the bear’s adorable little heads. Some of the bears would just stare right up at you, while others had their eyes closed as they quickly downed their bottles. Once the three went through their allowed ounces, we moved to the next enclosure with three more cubs.
By the time we got next door the bears were crying and pacing. They were definitely done waiting for us and wanted to be fed immediately. They were so loud and much closer to us in this enclosure, but still staying behind the wire. Some of the bears, in both enclosures, were quite aggressive with their bottles and made it hard to hold sometimes. The handlers were sure to remind us that they weren’t being aggressive in a mean way, but rather they were just trying to get the milk to come out as fast as possible. One bear, Zeus, looked like he was foaming at the mouth because he was drinking so fast.
Once all the bears were fed we had a few moments to ask some more questions. As a woman who sees breast-feeding in her nearish future, I was interested and terrified by the way the bears were treating the nipples on the bottles so I asked if they were that aggressive with the mama bear. The answer…yes. Poor girls. I also found out that mama bears can have babies from multiple fathers in the same litter. As I was told this, I was petting Ziggy, whose half twin brother is Zeus and said, “You’ve got yourself a scandalous mama, Ziggy.” The reason behind this is the mama bear hopes the papa bear will remember mating with her and not kill her cubs. Again, poor mama bears.
As we finished up, the bears were all nooking and getting ready for a nap. Nooking is simply sucking on the arms of the handlers. They were making purring noises like crazy as well. Once we left the enclosures all of the bears kind of cuddled up and took a nap. So sweet.
The pictures came with the feeding experience so once we received those we drove around the park which takes about 3o minutes or so. There we saw the bigger bears, moose, wolves, and a few other animals roaming around.
We both felt like the experience exceeded our expectations. Everyone on staff was so friendly and helpful and the bears were very well-behaved and beautiful. If you ever find yourself in the area, and you have a thing for bears, I would recommend stopping.