Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

On Saturday we met up with Mima and Boppie at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, near the town of Keenesburg, about an hour drive north and east from Evergreen.  This place is amazing!  You should go.  Bring binoculars.

Chase is re-learning how to be a tiger.

The sanctuary is home to hundreds of animals, specializing in large carnivores.  What this means to you is that there are dozens each of tigers, bears, lions, wolves, mountain lions and other large cats to observe.  The largest of its kind in the western hemisphere, the facility spans about 720 acres, with another 400 in development.  From the website alone I was worried this would be the kind of self-important, save-the-animals clap-trap that annoys me.  I couldn't have been farther from the truth.  Yes, these animals were all saved from terrible situations.  But the focus is not on the past; rather you experience the incredibly pleasant (and well-fed) lives the animals lead today.  They all have shiny coats and plenty of space to roam.  The staff clearly understands how these animals relate in social groups, and each species is introduced to others of its kind in a different way.

You do not want to cuddle with Tabitha.  I promise.

So the sanctuary isn't like a zoo, designed for the optimal viewing experience of the humans.  Rather, this is the animals' home, and we've been invited to visit.  They've built a mile-long, 22-foot high viewing platform which crosses above the multiple tiger habitats, a handful of bear and wolf habitats and several lion prides.  The animals crossed right below the platform and roamed around their spaces.  Though the sanctuary has been in operation for over 31 years, it's only had this public viewing experience since last spring.

Giant caboose; tiny face.  Bears are funny.
 My brief take on the animals: Wolves? Noisy. Tigers? Awesome.  And strangely anti-social; apparently it takes them much longer to adapt to a social group, which is why so many of them are in the "tiger roundhouse" with close proximity to other tigers, and some social swimming pool time to boot! Lions? Powerful.  Especially the females.  Bears? Hilarious.  They have these gigantic fat asses and little tiny ears.  Plus, they waddle.  Camel?  (No, seriously, there's one of those, too.) Ridiculous.  
One of the Bolivian lion prides, with Morrison (the camel) beyond.

We love the Denver Zoo, but this was such a different experience.  All of us thoroughly enjoyed it, and when we sat down to talk about our day at the dinner table, there were so many cool things to recollect we each had a unique Top 3 List. 

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