I’ve just spend the last 24 hours just outside Greeley, Colorado as part of a really fun and interesting Nissan Rogue Sport event, and as part of it, we headed as a group to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. You won’t have heard of Keenesburg, it’s rather in the middle of nowhere in rural Colorado partway between Greeley and Denver, but it’s well worth the relaxing, rural country road drive to get there. Particularly in a brand new “Monarch Orange” Rogue Sport!
When you read about circuses being shut down or drug lords being busted and having their pet tigers or bears confiscated, do you ever wonder what happens to those poor, abused animals? Even zoos aren’t free and clear in this regard: many zoos will shamefacedly admit that they allow more baby animals to go through the nursery (who doesn’t love baby animals?) than they have space for as adults. The result is that a surprising number of majestic beasts are killed each year out of convenience, an appalling state of affairs.
That’s where the amazing, huge Wild Animal Sanctuary comes into play. Sprawled across 720 acres, it’s home for over 450 rescued big animals, including tigers, lions, wolves, bears and even porcupines and a camel. Unlike a zoo, however, the Sanctuary is designed for the animals and their enclosures are huge; some are 10 acres. A single enclosure bigger than your urban neighborhood.
To make it interesting and accessible, they built an elevated walkway and have kept adding to it as the Sanctuary has grown. It’s now about 1 1/2 miles long, making a walk to the very end and back just a bit shy of 3 miles:
As you walk along, you’ll undoubtedly see some of their many animals, but don’t do what I did and just use a cellphone to try and take pictures. This is a place where a 1000mm lens on a DSLR is going to be considerably more fun, and if you don’t have that, then at least bring some binoculars to keep the kids engaged. Still, here are some photos I managed with my iPhone 7, suitably cropped and altered to try and make them legible:
That is not something you want to come across in the field across from your home, but at the Sanctuary, it’s just another big cat enjoying the sunshine.
This lynx (bobcat? Not sure what it is; the signage at the Sanctuary could be improved a bit from an educational perspective) was just sitting on its perch, watching us on the walkway. Was it thinking “food. more food. every day, food walks along that path” or just waiting for a big ball of foil? I’ll never know, but what a beautiful animal!
I wish I could share the audio from this photo because about 15 of the lions got into a roaring and growling match and it was quite fantastic. The depth and power of their roars – we could hear it 1/4 mile away. The lioness in the photo is clearly not impressed, however. I imagine her thought balloon as “are you done yet, honey? you’re awful close to my ear…”
This is rare for me, but I’ll include a bit of a trigger warning too: the Sanctuary isn’t shy about sharing the horrible abuse stories related to the various animals and it can be upsetting. I personally don’t get how any human can abuse an animal but there are people who clearly have no issue with raising a lion in their garage or having a tiger cub stuck in a dog carrier or worse. Far worse. So be prepared and talk to your children about this beforehand, and perhaps have some money with you to make a donation as you leave to help out.
The walkway is also really long and uncovered, so don’t go in the heat of the day without a hat and some water. But mornings and evenings are better anyway because the animals are more active. Plan ahead, it’ll be worth it and 10x for little people. A 3mi walk is a significant distance!
My thanks to the Wild Animal Sanctuary for everything they do to help these majestic and helpless animals, and to Nissan for not just sponsoring the Rogue Sport event to include our visit to the Sanctuary, but for also making a $1000 donation to help out too. Nice job, Nissan!
Disclosure: Nissan not only supplied us with a car to drive to the Sanctuary, but paid for our admission to the Sanctuary too.