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Orr group offers new ways to connect with your inner bear

The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr is ramping up its marketing for the coming summer, and you're in luck. Especially if you like wearing loose clothing and improving your Downward Facing Dog pose in the presence of extremely well-fed bla...

The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr is ramping up its marketing for the coming summer, and you're in luck.

Especially if you like wearing loose clothing and improving your Downward Facing Dog pose in the presence of extremely well-fed black bears.

Yoga with bears. Wasn't it just a matter of time?

As the American Bear Association's news release reads, "Visitors will have an opportunity to experience yoga as it was originally intended by getting out of the studio and into a natural setting."

Specifically, a bear dining room of sorts. The setting is the bear sanctuary, where wild black bears gather daily and mill about while eating food that sanctuary staffers place for them.

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The late Vince Shute, a logger, grew unhappy that his fellow loggers would shoot nuisance bears that came around camps for food. In the 1950s, he began feeding them to keep them away from buildings.

"In today's world, we know that Vince was wrong to start feeding wild bears, but he was ahead of his time in seeking a means of coexistence," the American Bear Association website says.

The site does not mention whether Shute practiced yoga.

The yoga-with-bears events will happen just twice this summer, on June 19 and Aug. 7. And the price is right: Just $30 for the two-hour sessions. Bring your own mat.

"While striking a yoga pose, students will be able to feel the energy of being surrounded by these gentle giants in this very special place," ABA vice president and bear behaviorist Klari Lea says in the news release. "They will be able to find an inner doorway to the natural rhythms of nature by becoming one within the shadows of the normally reclusive black bear."

While participants meditate, bears with names such as Carl, Dark Star, Peanut and Biscuit will mosey about, being bears.

But maybe yoga isn't your thing. In that case, you might want to consider other sanctuary events scheduled for this summer, such as "Breakfast with Bears" and "Spend a Night Surrounded by Bears/Camping."

I'm not making those up. And, yes, it's a bit ironic that thousands of campers in the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will spend their trips trying to avoid drawing bears into their camps.

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The ABA website does not mention what happens if nature should call you outside the tent in the middle of the night, but presumably you'd want to change direction if you bumped into something ample and furry. Talk about "finding an inner doorway to the natural rhythms of nature."

But enough of hypothetical out-of-tent experiences.

If yoga with bears -- or any other sanctuary offering -- sounds good, you can sign up at www.americanbear .

org. And you can visit the sanctuary anytime, Tuesday through Sunday, from 5 p.m. until dusk, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The sanctuary opens for the season May 29.

SAM COOK is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-532 or scook@duluthnews.com . Follow him on Twitter at "samcookoutdoors."

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