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SITKA, Alaska (AP) — A Sitka bear sanctuary is getting ready to unveil its new black bear enclosure when it opens for the tourist season.

Fortress of the Bear Manager Claire Turner said during a presentation at the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that the new enclosure will add about 10 times the space of its previous habitat, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

It expects to open by early May, Turner said.

Les and Evy Kinnear opened the fortress in 2002. At the time, they only worked with brown bears.

They later added a separate 4000-square-foot (372-sq. meter) enclosure after they brought in black bear cubs, which they have since outgrown.

The new extension to the black bear habitat is larger and is a more natural environment for them, Les Kinnear said.

With the additional space, the state is considering allowing them to take in more black bear cubs, he said.

“Right now they are simply shot because there is no place to send them,” he said. “We would be able to rescue several more bears for our permanent exhibit.”

Their goal is to obtain remote property where they can keep orphaned bear cubs until they are old to enough to take care of themselves and be reintroduced back into the wild.

The foundation for the sanctuary’s new $1 million visitor center is expected to be finished by the end of this tourist season.

The visitor center will hold a ground floor window viewing space, an expanded gift shop, an upstairs viewing area, event space, deck space and an educational classroom space.

Turner and the Kinnears expect the new center will attract more visitors to the fortress, who in turn can pump more dollars into Sitka’s economy.


Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel,