American Bear Association

The American Bear Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the welfare of the black bear through a better understanding.

Formed in 1995, it runs and operates the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr, Minnesota. Over 21,000 people came to view wild black bears in their natural habitat from our elevated viewing deck, and to learn about bear behavior, their life cycles and habitat needs.

The ABA seeks to dispel the myths surrounding black bears by educating people on the need for peaceful co-existence with wildlife and knowledge of bear safety issues. We also have a variety of other wildlife visiting the Sanctuary throughout the year. The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary is open to visitors from Memorial Day (end of May) to Labor Day (September) and accepts volunteers throughout the summer season.

SPECIES: In addition to being a seasonal home to a special group of bears, this habitat is also used by such wildlife as whitetail deer, bald eagles, beavers, minks, pine martens, fishers, timber wolves, red squirrels, bobcats, lynx, blue jays, owls, ducks, songbirds, ravens, and a variety of other species. While black bears are the primary focus, the various habitats of the Sanctuary are managed in a manner beneficial to the entire ecosystem.

HABITAT: Nestled in the North Woods of Minnesota, and encompassing some 360 acres, the Sanctuary consists of a combination of habitats: aspen forests, cedar swamps, marshes, beaver ponds, a primary stream, open areas and numerous other resources.

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION: North-eastern Minnesota, 60 miles south of the Canadian border, 2.5 hours north of Duluth, MN.

TRAVEL INFORMATION: Plane to Duluth airport.

DURATION: Volunteers: any nationality welcome, must commit to a minimum of 1 week, and a maximum of 4 months. Internship applicants must be US citizens or hold a valid US work permit, and must commit to a minimum of 8 weeks and a maximum of 14 weeks.

PERIOD: From mid-May to the end of September.

AGE: Minimum 18.

SKILLS AND QUALIFICATIONS: All skills welcome, especially engineering, cooking, building, administration, wildlife expertise. All volunteers must sign a Liability Waiver, read and comply with the Volunteer Handbook, have an excellent work ethic and be passionate about wildlife and conservation. They may also need to fill in a questionnaire. A reasonable level of fitness is also required.

VOLUNTEERS? WORK: Picking up and/or unloading supplies, including 50-pound bags of seed and 35-pound bags of fruit and nuts (heavy lifting is often a part of the job); daily cleanup of feeding areas and bear poop scooping; cooking meals for staff and volunteers, and kitchen cleanup; maintenance projects and carpentry; planting, mulching, weed-eating, and other landscape improvement projects; preparing bear food mixtures; splitting firewood, road maintenance, and other miscellaneous tasks. Jobs during evening/visitors? hours include: parking cars, greeting visitors on their arrival, talking with the public and educating about bears and their behavior; sale of souvenir merchandise; answering visitors? questions.

LANGUAGE: English.

ACCOMMODATION: Campgrounds available close to the Sanctuary, but the ABA tried to accommodate volunteers on site whenever possible. Priority is given to interns and long-term volunteers.

COST: There is no fee to volunteer at the VSWS. However, volunteers and interns must pay for their travel to and from Orr.

LONG-TERM: Long-term volunteers are welcome.

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