While in Lviv, we decided to visit the nearby Four Paws bear sanctuary. You can get there using a cheap public-transport bus or by taxi. Public bus will be a difficult trip without a local guide, as there are no obvious bus stops and the drivers don't speak English. The tickets to the sanctuary are only 60 UAH for a tour per an adult person.
Table of Contents
The place is located 22 kilometers north-west of Lviv. It takes approximately 30 minutes to get there by car.
One-way bus ticket costs around 10 UAH. One-way Uber trip will be 220 UAH from the center of Lviv. It's quite easy to hitch-hike a ride back to Lviv - a lot of people visit the place by car.
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
The sanctuary was founded with the support of an Austrian charitable organization, Four Paws International.
The organization works with animals - rehabilitating them after torture. They rescue bears from zoos and circuses. The volunteers do what they can to retrieve bears that are held captive by irresponsible people around Ukraine. They offer hope to brutally mistreated animals, which now have a chance to be rescued and be given a new home where they will be taken care of by specialists.
The sanctuary is surrounded by a cozy village/forest area. Bears have access to play-pens where they can exercise and take a bath.Abuse of bears in Ukraine is a longstanding cultural problem. Most notably, the bears are exploited across the country within hunting stations - they are being used as bait during the training of hunting dogs.
In the sanctuary, bears are rehabilitated both for mental and physical reasons - due to bad treatment from previous owners. One of such bears is living in the sanctuary now. She's suffering from severe mental issues. She gets stressed easily, and one of the solutions to ease her nerves is feeding her tomatoes.
Almost all of the bears that live in the sanctuary were born in captivity.
The sanctuary's area is 24 acres, but the organization is planning to expand it to 60 acres. Currently, eight bears are living there, but there is a plan to host around 20 as soon as possible. The sanctuary is home to one type of bear - the brown bear - a bear which is most wide-spread across Ukraine.
In captivity, bears live, on average, 35-40 years. In one of the Polish sanctuaries, there was a bear who lived until the old age of 50. In Greece, the record lifespan was 48 years old.
In the wild, bears can live up to 30 years old. Their lives are shorter because of more dangers in the wild, less balanced diet and lack of healthcare in the forests.Surprisingly, the bears are usually 80% vegetarian in the wild. Each bear in the sanctuary has its own taste for a particular product. Some like fish, others grapes or tomatoes. During the summer months, they eat bear ice-cream, which is frozen fruit mixed with ice. Each bear has access to a pool where they can rest, swim, and cool down.
Bears don't start their own families. They don't understand the concept of a pack. They lead a lonely life. During the pairing season, the female bear lets the male approach her to have babies. When she gets pregnant, the male gets sent away and she stays alone bearing the child and bringing it up. The child stays with her for 2 or 3 years never to see their mother again.
Brown bears don't have more than 2-3 children in average during their lifespans. The gestation period lasts from six to nine months.Thanks to the work done by Four Paws, bear-baiting has been banned in Ukraine in 2015. Unfortunately, it does not prohibit hunting bases from owning bears. That's why there's still a lot of brown bears held and illegally used for baiting.
Although the use of bears for dog-fighting has been illegal In Ukraine since 2015, many bears still suffer being a part of it. Confined to tiny cages next to restaurants, motels or petrol stations, these bears live awful, lonely lives.
Held in filthy cages, baiting bears are only let out when they are exploited for the training of hunting dogs. Held on a short leash, they are supposed to fight off aggressive dogs in preparation for the hunt. The bears often have their teeth and claws removed so they don't injure the dogs. The emotional and physical stress these bears feel is tremendous.
A new law could finally put on end to these animal practices. Proposition No. 6598, which is currently discussed by the Ukrainian government, forbids the keeping of bears on private premises. The hunters' lobby is trying to oppose the legislature, as it would mean a financial loss for their businesses.During our visit we were able to meet 5 out of the 8 bears living there. Our tour guide had something interesting to say about each bear and here are our notes on that.
Before being rescued, Kristina was used for circus performances for her entire life. She was kept in a tiny cage.
Kristina is the oldest beat at the sanctuary. Despite her age and health issues, Kristina is rather active and brave. She enjoys swimming and playing in the pool.
Before being rescued, Potap used to live in a small cage next to a restaurant. Potap is a very positive and friendly bear. Potap is forgiving. He loves to play, swim, and solve different tasks.
Tyson was rescued from the hunting station in October 2017.
Tyson is self-confident, well-balanced, and a bit shy. Most of all he enjoys playing with his big toys and swimming. He's learning to trust humans again.
Before her rescue, Mashutka was used as a bait at a baiting station where she was constantly attacked by hunting dogs.
Mashutka is a very smart and persistent bear. She loves to play and run.
Before moving to the sanctuary, Manya used to live in a small cage next to a restaurant.
Manya is a bit mysterious. She carefully observes everything. She likes to solve tasks, which increases her self-esteem and supports her psychological rehabilitation.
Our trip to Four Paws Bear Sanctuary in Ukraine couldn't have been more exciting. We've seen a couple happy bears and learnt a lot. We hope that you will visit the sanctuary when you're around Lviv too. Four Paws also has a donation page. See you around!
Bonus -- Check Out The Brown Bears of Katmai Alaska