[BEARS: Imagination and Reality.  At the San Diego Natural History Museum from October 21, 2000 through January 2, 2001.]

Exhibition Overview

This exhibition closed January 4, 1998.

From the giant grizzly to the cuddly "teddy," for centuries humans have been fascinated by one of the most potent symbols of the wilderness—bears. On October 21, 2000, the San Diego Natural History Museum brings this creature of the great outdoors indoors when it hosts BEARS: Imagination and Reality.

Consisting of five sections, this exhibition challenges visitors to develop an informed perspective on the relationship between bears and people.

Images of the Bear explores the myths, legends, folklore, and art surrounding bears. North American Indian artwork and artifacts show how native cultures have viewed bears over the course of time. Contemporary images of bears include a world-class collection of teddy bears, featuring replicas of the two first teddy bears, an eight-foot tall teddy bear couch, and a video monitor showing bears in cartoons.

The Vanishing Bear examines the decline of the grizzly bear in the last 300 years. An estimated population of 100,000 grizzly bears in the lower 48 states has been reduced to 600 to 800 grizzlies in four northern states. Classified as a threatened species south of the Canadian border under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, the grizzly bear is vulnerable to many threats, the greatest of which are habitat loss or modification and direct human-caused mortality.

The World of the Bear explores the natural history of the black and grizzly bears based on current scientific understanding. Visitors will see 25 taxidermy mounts of young and adult grizzlies and black bears in displays on bear habitat, food habits, behavior, and life history. Visitors can also learn about bears' winter dormancy (they don't really hibernate), as well as examine and touch bear hides, skulls, teeth, and paws, as they learn about bear biology.

The Bear Encounters area features a continuous 55-minute video of interviews with people who have had different encounters with black bears and grizzlies.

Bears, Wilderness, and People discusses the social, ethical, economic, and scientific issues surrounding bears and their future. Displays explain the causes of bear deaths, the threat to bears from habitat loss, and conflicts arising as bears move from public to private land. A habitat computer game challenges visitors to manage a tract of land that must be used by both grizzlies and people. In addition, the San Diego Natural History Museum has developed a Bears in Southern California display, tracking expansion of the black bear's range into Riverside and San Diego Counties within the last two years. Find out how to avoid attracting bears to backyards or campsites, and learn what to do if you encounter one of these intelligent and adaptable creatures.

photo of grizzly bear diorama
BEARS: Imagination and Reality was produced by The Science Museum of Minnesota. All specimens in the exhibition were obtained as salvage specimens from agencies throughout the United States; no bears were harmed in the creation of these exhibits.

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