Ely’s Wild Animal Centers

Visit Ely this summer and learn about wolves and bears at the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center

People looking at the wolf enclosure at the Ely Wolf Center.

photo by international wolf center

Just 4 hours north of the Twin Cities, Ely (pop: 3,390) is primarily known as being a popular entrance point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area but it is also home to two leading animal centers in the nation and the world: the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center. With activities and programs galore, both centers strive to educate visitors about the wild life that surrounds them.

The International Wolf Center offers daily programs that can be attended after an admission fee ($13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $7 for children 4-12, and free for children 3 and under). The admission includes all daily programs, films, all the exhibits, and the live ambassador wolves. The daily programs range from learning about specific wolves in the exhibit pack to learning about how wolves contribute and live in their ecosystem. Other learning adventures are available for families or young aspiring biologists interested in learning more about wolves in over-night or weekend options including the Jr. Wolf Biologist Mini Camp or the Wolves After Dark program.

The North American Bear Center, on the other hand, offers an exceptionally large museum with impressive bear mounts complete with educational information about black, polar and brown/grizzly bears. The Northwoods Ecology Hall gives information about the North Woods habitat and the history of the area. A 40-foot wildlife exhibit showcases over 35 mammals and birds and touchscreen monitors allow visitors to learn more about the animals. Visitors can also view the center’s ambassador bears, Ted, Lucky, Holly, and Tasha, who live in a 2.5 acre naturally forested area. With the admission fee ($13 for adults, $12 for seniors,$8 for children 3-12, and free for children under 3), visitors can also take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about how the center takes care of their resident bears.

For those living in the Twin Cities area, Ely is bit more than a day trip kind of destination. But between Ely’s many camping options, restaurants (try Front Porch Coffee & Co. for coffee or the Ely Steak House for a burger), and vibrant downtown with plenty of shops and outfitters dedicated to camping, fishing, and water sports, a long weekend trip is doable whether it’s with your family or a few friends.