Holland America Amsterdam – Sitka Alaska Chapter 17

Then we boarded the bus again, and headed towards the Fortress of the Bear. This is a place that also looks into rehabilitating animals. The story here is rather sad, all the bears there were orphaned at a young age. The Law in Alaska is if a bear gets orphaned the cubs need to be killed, I guess they see it as more humane since they will likely die on their own.  So this place looks into talking care of them. The ironic part is that currently the laws in Alaska does not allow for their release into the wild, so they are currently looking into getting that law changed. There are a lot of wacky laws in Alaska. So for now, those bears are permanent residents there.

In the past they did release 3 bears far away from Sitka (not sure if they simply violated the law or what, I did not ask). Anyway, those bears traveled all the way back to the Fortress of the Bear, broke down the front doors, and then waited to be reintroduced into the holding pens. I guess they loved the easy, free lifestyle that they had there. However, they had already taken in new bears, and they could keep all of them, so they ended up transferring those 3 bears to other facilities in the lower 48.

This are not grizzly bears, they are Alaskan coastal brown bears, they are usually larger than grizzlies, and a little more mellow.

The bears all looked really happy, and they seem to be getting great care there.

Males are castrated because its illegal to breed them in captivity. Plus they don’t need more bears to take care for. Or have siblings breeding with each other.

All they did was swim and eat. Also the water flows freely, and every so often they empty it and refill the pool.

They said they usually never fight between each other.

By the way, the place is accessible friendly. We had a disabled child in our group, and she had no issues getting around, there is a ramp that easily gets you to the top of the viewing platform.

Remember it was rather warm that day, so the bears must of been quite hot.

They are so cute!

They do hibernate like all bears do. They are also fed at random times, and nothing is programed. They try to keep them as will as possible within their limits.

Of course they are exposed to a lot of tourists, but with us they would not be able to afford to care for them.

So I think the pens are from a re-purposed mill, but don’t quote me on that.

I think the stop there was about 45 minutes, leaving us with enough time to shop a little and get a nice coffee for me =)

A cute bee came around. Very different from the bees from Florida. It took me like 40 tries to get this picture, she kept moving around. Very front heavy bee, her sight must be incredible!

Our next stop was a salmon hatchery, and a very small aquarium.

Ok, so lets see, ill try to go fast, my hands are getting tired of typing. So the hatchery focuses on getting as many eggs fertilized, in an attempt to hatch as many salmon as possible to release into the wild.

When the salmon have completed their life cycle (15 years? can’t recall), the leave the ocean waters and they head up the stream to lay eggs and die. Once they enter fresh water in the streams, they literally start dying, they stop eating and their appearance changes into the orange and white kind with a beak for a mouth. By this time is when you do not want to eat them, they said their meat is dry and it already tastes odd. So what the hatchery does is that the fish travel up the river into their holding tanks, then they wait there for weeks.

The people there are waiting for the eggs to be in the best stage possible so that they increase the odds. Once the eggs are ready, they kill the fish with an impact to the head and squeeze the eggs out, they fertilize the eggs (in the wild only about 15% get fertilized, the rest die off), and they start waiting for them to grown into young adults to be released. The dead old fish are donated to the Raptor center and the fortress of the bear, so nothing goes to waste.

That picture sorta depicts the cycle that I just stated.

They really do great work there, and increase the numbers of yummy healthy wild salmon.

The more white and red they are, the closer they are to death.

They jumped pretty high up

They jump pretty high.

See how white the belly is?

Here they sort fish and eggs.

After that we moved into the aquarium area, which was pretty much like 6 tanks and a touch pool. I loved touching all the sea life there.

Reminds me of Finding Dory, the movie. Lol

You can see the skeleton of a whale on the reflection.

The water was really cold.

One of the small tanks.

It was pretty cool, that little guy was so sticky. Mom gave it a shot, but she was freaked out when it attached to her fingers. But everything in that touch pool is safe to touch. There were also this tinny fish, and they kept fighting with each other. Once I stuck my finger in there, they looked at it like it was prey, I freaked out, lol. Maybe they are not all friendly? I pretty much pulled finger out, lol.


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