Fortress of the Bear – An Alaska Animal Sanctuary in Sitka, Alaska
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
Located on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska, Fortress of the Bear is a one-of-a-kind Alaska animal sanctuary where visitors can get up close and personal with beautiful brown and black bears. Each year, visitors travel from far and wide to the rainforest community of Sitka where this attraction is located. After the bears wake up from their winter hibernation, crowds flocks by the hundreds and thousands to experience this fascinating facility.
As the Fortress of the Bear founders say on their website, it’s important to remember that long before the gold miners, king crab chasers, fishermen, and cruise ships arrived in the Last Frontier – bears ruled Alaska. With an ever-growing population of humans and subsequent development, bears have been pushed out of their territory and as a result interaction with humans has caused many bears to become orphaned or sick.
With a mission dedicated to “providing protection and care to rescued animals in an enriching, educational environment,” this 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization has pioneered a bear rehabilitation program. Before Fortress of the Bear, the State of Alaska had no bear rehabilitation program in place. It was routine procedure that orphaned bear cubs would be shot by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, due to lack of a better alternative.
Since the incredible Fortress of the Bear facility opened 20 years ago back in 2007, it now houses eight furry, funny, adorable bears.
The mission of this Alaska animal sanctuary is to rescue bear cubs, bring them back to health, and provide a long life full of enrichment to the otherwise helpless animals. Rehabilitated bears from this Alaska animal sanctuary have even been sent on to places such as the Bronx Zoo, Montana Grizzly Encounter, and the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Texas.
Each year, over 20,000 visitors flock to the outdoor structure to walk around the observation decks that overlook the beautiful bears.
While excited visitors anxiously await the observation opportunity of their lifetime, the bears are known to also enjoy looking right back up at their human visitors (which would be a terrifying sight to see if they weren’t a safe distance away).
Visitors have fun watching the furry residents have a blast down below while playing with toys and enjoying the company of the other resident bears.
When it comes to enrichment, Fortress of the Bear knows how to treat their local residents like royalty. The happy bears enjoy feasting on fresh salmon from local fish processing plants as well as produce from local markets.
The bears are also known to get spoiled with popsicles, Easter egg hunts, and scrumptious deer carcasses donated by local area hunters.
They even like to cuddle with soft plush animals from time to time.
The wonderful staff and volunteers even make sure that the bears get in on all the fun holiday action that humans get to enjoy.
Nothing to see here… just a sweet black bear named Bandit hanging out in a hammock.
The many faces of Toby are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Visitors to this incredible Alaska animal sanctuary have the rare opportunity to get within 25 feet of the bears. The ¾ acre lot is located just five miles from the city center of Sitka. Open year-round with varying hours depending on weather conditions, visitors will enjoy being able to soak in three fascinating populations of bears alongside the trusty knowledge of local naturalists.
Looking for more where that came from? You’ll love these 13 videos showing times when Alaska bears thought they were humans and got caught on candid camera. These 15 times Alaska moose thought they were humans and got caught on candid camera, are also quite enjoyable!