WINSTON, Ore. -- At the end of this month the bears at Wildlife Safari will go into hibernation until February.
For the very first time, the Safari invited guests to enjoy a big bear encounter, feed them and enjoy a sit down dinner with them.
Carnivore keeper Sierra Carey says that the bears' metabolisms are beginning to slow down to prepare for hibernation.
"Right now they're at the max amount of food calorie intake that they have, so they're chowing down on as much as possible," she said. "We're able to bring people into our normal drive-thru area, so where you'd normally bring in your cars and you get to have a dinner with the bears."
The encounter allows guests to get an up close and personal look at the bears before they go down for a while.
Surprisingly, they say bears do not instinctively know how to hibernate. Since Wildlife Safari rescues most of their bears before they can learn in the wild, they must learn this trait from the older bears.
"This behavior isn't something that they automatically know; it's not instinctual for them. They learn it from mom. So when bears are rescued from the wild and don't learn it in time from mom, they have to learn it from other bears, like our bears learned from Russell and Claire," Carey said.
Wildlife Safari does not encourage captive breeding because there is such a high demand for orphans in the wild.
Most facilities practice a no breeding policy unless it’s an endangered species. The Safari would love to adopt more, but they are currently at maximum capacity.
Russell, Claire and the gang were fed apples, cookies, and cake by the guests Thursday night.
Thanks to a donation from the Rock Creek Hatchery, the keepers fed the bears fresh salmon, which is very unique for most facilities.
Needless to say, these bears will have plenty of winter weight to hold them through the next few months.
Wildlife Safari plans to do more of these events in the future, and all proceeds go back to benefit animal enclosures.
The last Salmon BBQ of the year will be held this Sunday, October 6, from 1-3 pm, and space is still available. You can call Wildlife Safari guest services for more information at 541-679-6761.