If you want to see black bears, northern Minnesota is the place to be.
Ely is home to the North American Bear Center where PixController's webcam made Lily the Bear internationally famous, and just west of Orr the American Bear Association's Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary allows brave photographers to get very close to wild black bears.
The Vince Shute Sanctuary protects wild bears and provides educational opportunities in its 360-acre sanctuary. The bears are encouraged to visit a two-acre clearing at the heart of the property where, on the summer evenings, the general public can watch them from the sanctuary's elevated viewing platform. Photographers wishing a close encounter can pay hundreds of dollars, learn about bear safety and sign a release. Then up to four photographers at a time can stand on the ground among the bears during the day.
Sparky Stensaas visited in early June and signed the release. "Basically you sign your life away," he says, but you can see why the sanctuary does that. The bears come that close!
Watch Sparky's video for cute cubs and a very close bear encounter. Click here to see his video on Vimeo's full screen and read more about his experience with the bears.
p.s. Listen to the sound track for crows and some odd calls that sound like humans saying "wooo." Those are ravens!
(video by Sparky Stensaas, The Photonaturalist)