Tanaka devouring a carcassPhoto by: Dawn Harrison

— by Dawn Harrison —

We are excited to have Animal Enrichment Specialist Steve Hill on site working with all of our sanctuary residents, but we’re not as excited as the animals. Steve traveled here from England and immediately began immersing himself in his work. He spouted ideas within minutes and started early with a trip to the local thrift shop and junk yard. By the second day, we had swinging ramps and converted cooler hidey holes for the foxes, tire toys made for the bears, and ground laid for more projects to come.

Man with red fox

Sholeh thanking Steve for his new toys | Dawn Harrison

The simplicity of some projects is amazing and yet so effective. Teton Totem, the grizzly bear, was given a log with holes in it. Granted, the holes were filled with peanut butter or honey, but it was still just a log—the same kind of log we put on our fires. But that log was much loved. Teton licked, tore, chewed, and played with it, much like a child receiving a gift during the holidays and playing with the box. Many of the holes were cleaned out by way of inserting a claw and licking off the sticky bits with great relish. It’s easy to forget that simple doesn’t necessarily mean boring and that entertainment can come with a very small price tag.

And in case you were wondering, Teton Totem prefers peanut butter over honey.

Bear Sign in the Woods

I took a walk in the woods today to survey one of the irrigation ditches. Because I was on a ‘business’ mission, I wasn’t thinking about the nature around me. That is, until I almost stepped on a large pile of bear scat. Suddenly, I started to pay attention to the beauty. I saw that there were actually three piles of scat along the path I was walking, which reminded me that I wasn’t on a human path, I was on a game trail. I realized just how easy it is to become detached, even when you are surrounded by nature and working so hard to help others connect to it. Sometimes you need to switch off and reconnect, even if just for a moment, so you don’t get lost in the day to day.

Bear scat in the leaves

Bear scat | Dawn Harrison

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

A Scout is Helpful

— by Chelsea Carson —

Along with Steve, we also had Ethan, a Boy Scout from Idaho Falls, visit our animals on Saturday and offer them enrichment activities. Ethan chose Earthfire for his Eagle Scout project and we are so grateful he did! He brought three carcasses, tons of bones and meat, kibble balls for our smaller animals, scent marking tools, and even built a ramp for our coyote, Keto. Ramble the grizzly bear followed the estrus scent trail Ethan created, which led to the reward of an elk carcass! Our wolves Tanaka and Nightstar excitedly ran around the garden sniffing out piles of meat and bones, and Tahi enjoyed scratching, playing, and biting her newly wrapped rope posts. Ethan and the Earthfire team were able to see his hard work and generosity immediately pay off as the animals had a wonderful day with their new activities and treats. We cannot thank Ethan enough for all of his help and hope to see him in the future!

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