Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 43-Sitka

I awoke today to heavy rain and it didn’t let up all day.  Due to the weather Jeff and I started the day out lazily.  I walked over to his hotel about two miles away (thank you GoreTex!) and we hung out for a bit.  We had heard about a bear rehabilitation facility a few miles up the road, and got a ride up to it from one of the employees at the hotel.

At first I was disappointed in the place.  A couple of giant old tanks held 5 or 6 brown bears captive.  The bears seemed to be trained like dogs…they’d follow orders from the guys who fed them.  Sit, pray, stand…they knew all sorts of commands and seemed to behave well. 

After watching them for 15 minutes or so, we were starting to get bored.  Then out came the founder of the organization, whose name I can’t remember, and things got more interesting.  He was a wealth of knowledge and helped us understand what we were seeing, why the bears were in captivity, and what would happen to the bears in the future.  Apparently when humans and bears come into contact in suburban environments, bears can cause problems by killing pets, rummaging through garbage, etc.  Some people, feeling threatened by the bears, shoot them.  Unfortunatley, when they shoot a mother but not her cubs, the cubs are left essentially defenseless.  That was the case with the bears he had.  Because they have been raised in captivity, they will never be able to be released into the wild.
After the bear viewing we grabbed pizza and then went to the Sitka Raptor Center for a tour.  Hitting the bear place and the raptor center on days without cruise ships in town was key.  Both places were nearly empty and we got essentially private tours.
Begging for food
Play time...
Dozens of bald eagles circled overhead when the bears were fed 

Anyway, the raptor center is a place where birds, particularly bald eagles, are brought for rehabilitation when sick or injured.  Some examples are birds that have been shot, birds that have collided with cars, or birds that have run into power lines.  They had a whole bunch of birds in various stages of repair.  Some never make it back into the wild, but many do.  It was an interesting tour and worth doing if you’re in Sitka.

After the raptor tour I went back to the boat and Jeff went back to his hotel.  Later on, he came down to the boat with a slab of Salmon and we cooked dinner aboard.  The rain stopped during dinner and we had a nice time.  Afterwards I took him to the nearest dock to his hotel, still about a mile away, but a lot closer than 2 miles! 

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