The American Bear Association
Focus: Animal care and Conservation.
Many years ago a humble Minnesota logger made a decision that would ultimately affect the black bear and the attitudes that people have of this often misunderstood animal. It was then that Vince Shute chose to stop shooting the bears that broke into his cabins and found a way to peacefully coexist with them. In his own words he claimed, “The bears weren’t mean, just hungry!”. So he tried a more peaceful approach and the strategy worked – no more break-ins. Thus began Vince’s long and celebrated life with the black bears in a tiny corner of the north woods near Orr, Minnesota.
Generations of black bears still visit his former homestead, now designated as The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary. The non-profit organization, The American Bear Association, was formed to manage the Sanctuary and to promote a better understanding of the black bear through education, observation, and experience. The organizations ultimate goal and Vince Shute’s final wish has become a reality – peaceful coexistence between humans and bears. All of the sanctuary bears are free-roaming. They come and go at will through clover meadows, cool cedar swamps and pine forest.
Costs & Benefits
Ever thought how wonderful it would be to work outdoors among large wild black bears? Would you like to meet new people from across the United States and throughout the world? This is what we, at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, are privileged to be able to do every day from May to October.
Although the work is not always glamorous, it is very rewarding. Time spent at the Bear Sanctuary will be simply unforgettable and a life-changing experience. As a grassroots organization, we rely on the teamwork and dedication of our volunteer staff. We are always on the lookout for enthusiastic, reliable and hardworking volunteers to keep our operation running smoothly. You don’t need a background in biology to volunteer. Many volunteers come year after year to work on various special projects that utilize skills such as carpentry, automotive maintenance, etc. If any of this interests you, please contact us to see what projects we are currently working on or planning for the upcoming season.
What will I do as a Wildlife Volunteer?
Many jobs are available at the Sanctuary. We work with individuals to find jobs that fit their interests, skills and availability. While there are some tasks that do not require a volunteer to be in exceptionally good physical health, a large part of the work is manual labor. Therefore, a degree of physical stamina and fitness is recommended.
Picking up and/or unloading supplies, including 50-pound bags of seed and 35-pound bags of fruit and nuts. Heavy lifting is often a part of the job
Daily cleanup of feeding areas and scat removal
Cooking meals for staff and volunteers, and kitchen cleanup
Maintaining the property, including carpentry projects
Planting, mulching, weed-eating and other landscape improvement projects
Preparing bear food mixtures
Splitting firewood, road maintenance and other miscellaneous tasks
Jobs during evening/visitors’ hours include:
Assisting with admission and parking cars
Greeting visitors on their arrival
Talking with the public and answering their questions
Educating the public about black bears, ecology, practical environmental conservation and land stewardship
Sale of souvenirs and educational materials in the gift shop
Promoting membership to the American Bear Association
What are the requirements for the volunteer program?
All volunteers must read The American Bear Association’s Volunteer Handbook and be willing to complete a liability waiver form. Volunteers must also fill out an application and send; a resume, a letter of recommendation, proof of health insurance and one reference. Volunteers must be responsible, safety-minded, and always aware that bears are wild and unpredictable animals. A volunteer’s day may start as early as 5.30am and end as late as 10.00pm (with time off in the afternoon). Many of the daily chores are strenuous! YOU MUST BE OVER 18 YRS OLD TO VOLUNTEER WITH ABA.
What will it cost me to volunteer?
We do not charge a fee for you to come to the VSWS as a volunteer. The cost of travelling to and from the Sanctuary is the responsibility of the volunteer. Off-site lodging, if necessary or desired, and personal items are also the volunteer’s responsibility. Whether you stay on site or off, we encourage all volunteers to come together at mealtime. You may make your meals separately at your own expense, or join the rest of the crew to partake in camaraderie that accompanies each meal. If you have special dietary requirements, such as being a vegetarian, they will be at your own expense.
There is no cost to volunteers, volunteers are provided with accommodation in rustic cabins (No running water or electricity).
On the job training. Wildlife background/majors preferred, over 18 years old and speak English.
The American Bear Association
PO Box 77
12541 Nett Lake Rd
Orr, MN 55771
Average cost per day: No Fees
Focus: Animal care and Conservation
Skills needed: Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and English speaking