EVANSTON — Evanston has somewhat of a hidden treasure for many local residents who may never visit the visitor center at the Bear River State Park. Visitors who leave Interstate 80 at the east exit and go inside the visitor center are treated to a wildlife interpretive exhibit that rivals any other in Wyoming. Tour groups from the local schools also visit the wildlife interpretive exhibits.
The wildlife exhibits include a variety of Wyoming species, including bears, raccoons, elk, bison, a wolf, a coyote, birds of many species, mountain lions, fish, badgers and many more species too numerous to list. Each exhibit displays the animals in as much of a natural environment as possible in limited space. The displays are educational as well as beautiful. Especially inspiring are King the bison and Barney the elk that were residents at the park until their natural deaths. A fundraising effort took place to have the two preserved and mounted at the visitor center.
Local taxidermists Glen Miller and Larry Odem have done much of the taxidermy and a few others have been done in Laramie. One of the black bears in a glass case is on loan to the center from the David Welling family.
Local photographer Stephen Bateman’s beautiful photos of Wyoming wildlife and landscapes are on display on a rotating screen that visitors see as they walk in.
Tyfani Sager, superintendent of the park, oversees the maintenance and operations of the entire park, animals and visitor center. She is responsible for training and supervision of the four employees.
Sager said she started working at the park in 1999 and was a seasonal worker until 2003. She left the work for a while and when she came back, she worked in maintenance and as an information specialist. Sager said she worked her way up to being an assistant to the superintendent and when Wade Henderson left in February, she took over as superintendent.
“The job is stressful and has a lot of responsibilities,” Sager said. “... I train my people to do the job [so that] in case anything were to happen to me, they would be able to take over.”
Becky Smith, who works in the visitor center, is a retiree who moved to Evanston in January. She is a seasonal worker and part-time.
“The best part of my job is visiting with people and hearing their stories,” Smith said. “Also, working with my coworkers is great. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”
The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day from May 1 to Sept. 30. From Oct. 1 to April 30, it’s open Thursday through Sunday. Sager said she hopes to be open for more days in the winter if approved.
Sager said they average more than 4,000 guests monthly in the summer and 500 guests monthly in the winter.