The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary

Internship and volunteer opportunities working with wild American black bears.

PURPOSE: Nestled in the north woods of Minnesota, the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary (VSWS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a better understanding of the black bear and all wildlife through education, observation, and experience.

DUTIES: A typical day for a VSWS intern or volunteer starts in the early morning, and will involve distributing food among feeding sites, preparing the mix for the evening feed, monitoring food sites, recording bear behaviors and interactions, clearing scat, sanctuary maintenance & construction projects, and other tasks as needed.

In the evenings, general public are admitted to the sanctuary to view the wild black bears from the safety of our viewing platform. VSWS interns and volunteers will spend this time interpreting bear behaviors for the public and educating them on bear biology and safety, as well as assisting in the parking lot, admissions, gift shop, and monitoring of the feeding sites.

POSITIONS: In addition to interns and volunteers who are interested in working closely with the bears, we also seek individuals with skills in cooking (to help feed all of us), retail (for the success of the gift shop), construction (to improve our structures) , and forestry line posting/corner marking (so that the sanctuary bounds can be clearer).

FACILITIES: Accommodation at VSWS is free, and simplistic meals are provided. Interns and volunteers stay on-site in rustic cabins with no running water, electricity, or telephones. Showers and laundry facilities are available nearby. It is recommended that applicants bring with extra spending money for personal food items, souvenirs, and activities during time off.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS: Work at the sanctuary is extremely rewarding, but can sometimes be strenuous and involve heavy lifting. For this reason, it is recommended that applicants have a reasonable level of fitness and stamina. Also, applicants must be at least 18 years old, speak English, and must provide/pay for their own transportation to-and-from the sanctuary.

RECREATION: During free time and days off, interns and volunteers often enjoy the local nature and pursue hiking, fishing, bird-watching, canoeing, and swimming in the state parks and internationally known Boundary Waters Canoe Area, or they will go shopping in the tourist town of Ely, and may even venture further to urban Duluth. VSWS staff can help organize outings and day trips if requested in advance.

HOW TO APPLY: Applications are always accepted and encouraged, although priority is given to those received before the 15 March of the intended May - September volunteering year. For further information, please visit the VSWS website ( and click on the "Get Involved" tab.

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