Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Last weekend, my parents treated the kids and me to a trip to The Wild Animal Sanctuary.  This sanctuary isn't to be confused with the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge.  It's actually a sanctuary mainly for carnivores that are in need of rescuing in the United States, although they've rescued animals from Mexico and even Panama.

It's actually very impressive.  We made the 45 minute drive northeast to Keenesburg, Colorado.  As we turned into the sanctuary, signs directed us not to slow or stop to view the animals.  There were black bears roaming the fields next to us on one side (fenced in, of course) with alpacas roaming  the other.  It was hard not to stop, but we got the view these same animals on foot later.

It cost $15 a piece to enter (thanks, Mom and Dad!).  Kids over three cost $7.50 a piece, so Oliver and Jo were admitted for free.  My parents sprang for the $5 wagon rental fee, and, let me tell you, it was worth every penny.  I usually encourage Oliver to walk everywhere.  On this particular day, temperatures crept up near 90, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  The sun brutally beat down on us, and so the covered wagon was a good call. We ended up walking about two miles, and that would have been a little much for my toddler anyway.

Don't let this photo fool you; Joanna hated the wagon and insisted on being carried the whole time:

After we paid our entrance fee, we walked up a ramp onto some elevated walkways. The walkways are actually over the enclosures! We walked over some black bears first. They were hiding out from the sun (not to worry; we saw more later!). It was really touching to see how much land the animals were given. After just seeing the black bears, I was amazed that the entrance fee was "just" $15.  It must cost a lot to run this sanctuary.  And, let me just say, this sanctuary is not a zoo. The animals aren't contained in small pens to make it easy for viewing. The sanctuary is over 720 acres, and so you don't always get to see the animals.

Here's a good view of the walkways that overlook the enclosures:

We moved on and walked over another habitat--the grizzly bear habitat!  I only spotted one, and he was hiding out in a large pipe. Near him was a pool with a waterfall flowing. A sign described the water troubles at the sanctuary. Colorado is very dry and arid. It's the downside of having so much sun and so little rain. The sign explained that their wells are able to provide enough water to clean the dens and to help fill the pools and water tanks for the animals, but they don't produce enough water to meet their needs. Grass doesn't grow here without watering, and so they, regrettably, can't fill all the habitats with grass, and they are limited with how many trees they can grow, as the trees require water, too. Eventually, with enough time, they plan on putting some trees in each of the animal habitats. 

We proceeded on the walkway and entered the Bolivian Lion House.  There were dozens of lions enjoying the shade of the enclosure, stretched out below us. We learned that the lions divided themselves into four prides. Each pride gets 20 acres at the sanctuary, as well as space in the Bolivian Lion House whenever they desire. Under the heat of the midday sun, it seemed that they all desired to be there. Oliver wanted to play with the bouncy balls in the lion dens.

We left the lion area and made our way over a tiger enclosure and a wolf enclosure.

Up ahead, I thought I saw cows roaming the fields. Nope! It was more black bears.

These guys were so much fun to watch! They "foraged" in a pile of food and climbed on and in pipes. There were some cubs in a smaller, fenced-in area climbing and playing on logs.

Beyond the bears were more lions. Check out this lioness roaming the Eastern Slope!

We took a shade break in the Education Center and watched some documentaries on some of the animal rescues.  There were sad stories about lions being kept in people's garages and black bears kept as pets.

Jo liked the shade break:

I'm not sure if she saw any animals, but she had a good time. Oliver liked seeing the animals, but he loved his wagon more.

The trip to The Wild Animal Sanctuary was an amazing experience. It was worth the drive, and, in my opinion, worth the $15 entrance fee. Wear a good pair of walking shoes, lather on the sun screen, and pack a lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables they provide, which overlook some of the animal habitats. Expect to spend a couple of hours to walk through the whole area. With the little kids, we didn't spend much time reading all the plaques and watching all the documentaries on the animal rescues. If we had, I think we could have easily been there for 4 or 5 hours.

No comments: