More and more often, residential developments in the Rocky Mountains are encroaching on the grizzly bear’s natural habitat.
This close proximity means that human-bear interaction is happening much more frequently — and the outcome for the bears is often not good.
But sometimes, something good can come out of a bad situation.
Dusty Lasseter, the Bear Wise Coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cody, pointed as an example to an incident in May near Wapiti that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old bear – the third bear to be put down this spring.
“He had killed some chickens,” Lasseter said, “and when we caught him this spring he was in really poor physical condition.”
However, the bear’s death created an opportunity for researchers at the Draper Museum of Natural History at Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Lasseter said.
“He was just a really good specimen, and the Draper had been asking us for some bears to use for educational purposes,” he said. “I thought this bear was a perfect candidate for that.”
And at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, technicians and museum staff will give the bear a new life – and purpose.
Nathan Doerr, curator of the Draper Museum, said the donation of the bear brings a unique educational opportunity.
“Draper staff and an incredible team of volunteers, we get together, and we dissect the specimen, we de-articulate it, and we clean the bones,” he said.
Then when the process is complete, which could take a year or more, Doerr said museum patrons will have multiple opportunities to learn from the bear’s articulated skeleton.
“Each bone is individually labeled, cataloged and stored for, whether it be scientific research, educational programming, or, in this case, exhibit,” he said.
But Doerr said that the ultimate goal for the experience is inspiration.
“We hope to ignite the curiosity in the visitors, get them to want to go out and explore more, and really start to dive into, if you will, the natural wonders of not just the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and not just the American West, but really their own backyards as well,” he said.