By Katherine Weadley
Redstone Review News Editor
LONGMONT – The Wildlife Sanctuary is celebrating 30 years of saving great cats, bears, wolves and other large exotic animals. Based east of Longmont near Keenesburg, this state and federally funded zoological facility and non-profit was established by Executive Director Pat Craig in 1980. It is the largest sanctuary of its kind and one of the oldest in existence in the United States.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary’s mission is “to rescue and provide life-long homes for large exotic and endangered captive wild animals and to educate the public about the causes of, and solutions to America’s captive wildlife crisis.”
The facility comprises more than 320 acres on rural grasslands and shelters more than 200 large carnivores. Of the roughly 70 accredited wildlife sanctuaries in the United States only 15, including the Wildlife Sanctuary, take in big cats or bears.
These carnivores are comprised of animals that have been abused, abandoned, exploited or illegally kept. Many of these rescued animals were illegally kept as exotic pets and were confiscated by law enforcement officials. Some are entertainment industry rejects. Some were surplus animals from zoos and other wildlife facilities, where they faced euthanasia due to over-breeding or overcrowded conditions. Some come from other facilities that have been shut down due to animal abuse, public safety concerns or financial problems.
According to statistic provided by the Wildlife Sanctuary there are more tigers living as pets in just the state of Texas than currently exist in the wild in the entire world. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 big cats are in private hands from cages in basements to roadside zoos.
The Wildlife Sanctuary has around 200 residents which include tigers, African lions, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, leopards, wolves, bobcats, foxes, lynx, coyote and more. The facility encourages visitors. The sanctuary gives group tours to students, scouts, organizations and businesses. As well, their Sanctuary Speakers Bureau is available to give presentations to town fairs, service clubs, and other agencies.
The sanctuary itself gets about 40,000 visitors a year. It is supported by actress and Boulder native Jessica Biel on Make the Difference Network (www.mtdn.com). Biel states in a press release, “The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a national treasure, and a magical place to visit! Colorado is lucky to have such a refuge to call its own.”
Providing 15 habitats with underground dens, shade shelters and play structures and toys for the animals is expensive. Expensive as well are the random feedings (to simulate a natural wild schedule) of 7,000 pounds of top-quality meats blended with vitamins and nutrients to its great cats and wolves every week. This costs, according to the sanctuary, about $450,000 annually. The bears get 7,000 pound of what they at the sanctuary call “everything” each week. This consists of donated fruit, veggies, eggs, hotel and cafeteria food. Another $100,000 a year goes to vehicles, gas, maintenance, insurance and cold and freezer storage units.
Then there is the veterinary care. The sanctuary is in the process of constructing a veterinary hospital on-site that would eliminate the need to transport the large animals and provide educational opportunities for veterinarians and students with a desire to specialize in large carnivore care.
The animals in the sanctuary can be visited on site at their facility on a unique boardwalk that takes visitors over the animals. Observation desks and education centers are also a part of the sanctuary. The facility is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adults cost $10 and children ages three to 12 cost $5. Call 303-536-0118.
Katherine Weadley is a freelance writer and a librarian. She worked as a reporter for the Daily Camera in Boulder. She lives in Lyons with her family and two dogs Wolfe and Winter.Back to Top