Bear Bonanza to kick off wildlife park’s summer

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GRAY — The kickoff day for the Maine Wildlife Park’s weekend summer event schedule is Saturday, May 7, with a Bear Bonanza happening from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The park’s three resident black bears are fully awake after a long winter’s sleep.

Full-size mounts of an IFW black bear and a grizzly bear on loan from Nokomis High School will be exhibited, and there will be a 6′ x 7′ polar bear rug with other polar bear artifacts from Bowdoin College’s Peary-Macmillan Arctic Museum on display for the day. Bowdoin will have several large mounted photos of polar bears in their native environment.

Maine Wildlife Park mascot Kennebago Bear and the Maine Forest Service’s Smokey the Bear will make appearances several times for photos with the kids. Smokey Bear will have a limited supply of Smokey Bear Sillybandz for children who agree to help him prevent forest fires.

The Forest Service will also have their Wildland Urban Interface Simulator set up, a new educational display that shows homeowners how to mitigate the dangers of wildfire near their residences. The wildfire simulator uses simulated fire, smoke and lightning to generate scenarios showing what happens when a wildland fire occurs near a home. It also demonstrates how quickly fire can spread to homes without adequate defensible space.

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An IFW bear biologist will have the tools used to manage our black bear population, the largest on the eastern seaboard, and chainsaw artist Tim Picket will be carving a really tall bear from a 10- foot tall standing white pine tree trunk. Athletes from the UMaine Black Bears and the Bowdoin College Polar Bears are making appearances as well. There will be a variety of bear-related games and activities for the kids.

Bring a lunch and your camera.

The Maine Wildlife Park has more than 30 species of native wildlife on display, plus wildlife gardens, nature trails, a fish hatchery and other interactive exhibits and displays. The park is open daily from from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 15 through Nov. 11; visitors must leave the premises by 6 p.m.

Admission to the park is free for ages 3 and under; $5 ages 5-12; $7 for adults, and $5 for seniors. Groups of 15 or more are $3.50 per person. Family and community season passes are available.

For more information, call the Maine Wildlife Park at 657-4977 or visit www.mainewildlifepark.com, www.mefishwildlife.com or on Facebook.

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