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Trip Report Lions and Tigers and Bears - oh my!

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It all started with an article in the Greeley Tribune. A nearby wildlife sanctuary (www.wildanimalsanctuary.org) northeast of Denver had recently received a large number of bears rescued from an Ohio 'breeding compound'. That was enough to spur my son and I to take a day off between his finals to check it out.

We drove backroads through the Colorado farmland to highway 52. Most visitors would take either Hwy 85 or I-76 (Exit 31 at Hudson). About 4 miles east of I-76, we spotted a small sign pointing to the sanctuary. We turned right on the gravel road #53 and drove 3 miles to the sanctuary.

As we turned into the sanctuary, we passed a large (15 acre) area with many bears roaming around. Driving slowly we watched the bears as we made it to the Entrance building. Adult admission is $10. An employee gave us a binder with information about the sanctuary and descriptions of every animal in the facility. All the animals are rescued. Each animal's rescue is described. For example, 2 tiger cubs were rescued from a man who kept them in airline animal cages as he lived in his car and used the cubs in photo for money scams!

The purpose of the sanctuary is the animals, not the visitors. Everything is geared to the health of the animals. All viewing of the animals is from viewing platforms above the animals. This makes it so the visitors are not encroaching on the 'personal space' of the animals. No dogs are allowed at the sanctuary - not even if left in the visitor's car. The family that was at the admission desk just before us had brought their dog, but had to leave.

The tigers are perhaps the easiest seen. They have 75 tigers in 3 large compounds as well as at the tiger house. The tigers in the tiger house are in smaller areas where they stay until they are sufficiently acclimated to move to a larger compound. Each of these areas has a stock tank of water so the tigers are frequently enjoying a soak. Believe it or not, there are over 7000 tigers (in private hands - not in zoos) in the U.S.! Perhaps not so surprising as the neighbor behind my parents house had both lions and tigers (they were 'circus people').

Next to be viewed are the lions in 4 compounds varying in size from 1-10 acres. One of them - Arthur - looked like he had just awakened with a 'bad hair day'. Several mountain lions are housed in smaller area. One - Romeo - was especially vocal. We also saw 3 leopards.

In the distance we could see the bears roaming their 15 acres. We then went back to the roof of the gift shop to get good views of wolves, more tigers, and another bear area. In the wolf area, we saw several wolf pups.

This is unusual for the sanctuary because it doesn't breed animals. In fact it neuters animals when it receives them. This exception was because a rescued wolf was pregnant when she arrived.

Next it was a quick look at the gift shop (could our family every go anywhere without checking out the gift shop?!). The only food concession at the sanctuary is at the gift shop where soda and sandwiches are available.

As we went back to our car, we got a good view of the grizzly bears and as we drove out, we spotted other wolves in another compound.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary was really fun to visit. I don't know where else you could ever see so many large cats and bears. From a tourist standpoint, the biggest drawback is the limited viewing of the bears. I'm sure they have plans to add more viewing platforms, but funding is always a concern. Remember that the facility exists for the animals.

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