When I was told that the bear print which forms part of Basecamp Oulanka’s logo was from a bear called Vyöti and I could see him at the Predator Centre in Kuusamo it immediately became somewhere I wanted to visit.
The Predator Centre is owned by a man called Sulo Karjalaisen, famous in Finland for being the ‘bearman’. The centre came about from Sulo’s love of animals and is part of the farm that he has lived on all his life. The animals there are all predators in Finland – bears, wolves, lynx and fox – who were taken in when orphaned through traffic accident or hunting. With Sulo being in his 70s, a successor needs to be lined up if the centre is to have a more certain future; whilst there is a little cafe selling souvenirs and guides are employed to take visitors round in groups, this is not a big commercial establishment.
We pass by the wolves on the way to the bears
Bears are the main stop on the tour of the centre and they come over to the fence ready to take whatever food is offered to them. There are c1000 wild bears in Finland, each one can weigh more than 400kg and run at speeds of 60kph
At this time of year they are preparing to hibernate so their diet consists mainly of fruit, to build up their fat stores. Vyöti had already built his nest and was sleepy so he was certainly prepared for it but he ventured out of his nest
occasionally for food while we were there. Vyöti is housed with his daughter but there are no breeding issues as bears are monogomous and recognise the family relationship.
The bears will be hibernating from October to April, their natural habits remain despite the captivity, so the centre is closed during those months…in case you were thinking of a visit whilst in the area 🙂 When a bear comes out of hibernation their jaws are that strong they can eat four reindeer in one sitting without leaving any trace of it!
The guide told some very interesting tales of the bears and their intelligent antics which include how they lived in the house with Sulo and went shopping with him!
http://www.visitfinland.com/article/meet-sulo-the-bearman/ (there are also alot more on the internet)
If the animals are able to be returned to the wild then they are but one of the bears was seen kissing a reindeer – at that point they knew it couldn’t return to the wild!
After the bears we see a fox and then several lynx.
The fox is very common here too with c100,000 in Finland. Similarly they will nose around rubbish bins near houses but I thought this fox looked so much healthier than the ones we see wild at home so you can tell the animals at the centre are well looked after.
There are also c1000 lynx in the wild in Finland and a fully grown adult can weigh up to 30kg. When the fox was near the part of the fence closest to the lynx pen, they were all sat looking over; it took me a while to work out what they were looking at as I couldn’t see or hear the fox but they obviously could.
Worth a visit if you are in the area especially if you have children.