Did you know Colorado is home to the world’s oldest and largest nonprofit animal sanctuary built solely for rescuing endangered carnivores? Since 1980, The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado has rescued thousands of animals across the world.

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The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Photo Credit: The Wild Animal Sanctuary - OutThere Colorado.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Photo Credit: The Wild Animal Sanctuary.

Globally, the volume of illicit profits that comes from the illegal trade of exotic and endangered animals is third only to illegal gun and drug trades. In America alone, it’s estimated that 30,000 exotic animals live outside of zoos and are often neglected, living in inhumane conditions. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a state and federally licensed zoological facility that provides a safe haven for rescued exotic animals and educates the public on the devastating consequences of illegal wildlife captivity and the importance of sanctuaries like theirs.

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The 720-acre Wild Animal Sanctuary is home to over 400 residents including tigers, African lions, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, leopards, and wolves. Smaller canines such as servals, bobcats, lynx, coati mundi, foxes, and coyotes, in addition to rescued horses, ostriches, emus, camels, alpaca, cats, dogs, and birds also reside on the property. The rescued animals come from several origins, including private owners unable to provide the proper care, the entertainment industries, and exotic animal auctions.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Photo Credit: The Wild Animal Sanctuary - OutThere Colorado.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Photo Credit: The Wild Animal Sanctuary

As you can imagine, it takes a massive amount of food to keep hundreds of large carnivores fed. The great cats and wolves, which make up two-thirds of the sanctuary’s animal population, are fed roughly 25,000 pounds worth of high quality meats each week. That comes out to a whopping total of nearly $450,000 annually.

For more than 20 years, visitors were not granted access into the sanctuary to protect the rescued animals from stressors and instinctive territorial behavior that encroaching strangers would bring. Eventually, the sanctuary discovered that most carnivores don’t consider the sky above them as their territory so they created raised platforms, named the “Mile into The Wild Walkway,” which weaves over the habitats. With the construction of the observation decks removing the threat of humans, The Wild Animal Sanctuary was able to open to the public and now has over 200,000 visitors annually. Each guest is required to attend an educational orientation about animal captivity awareness and the sanctuary importance before touring the grounds.

If you want to see the animals when they are most active, it’s best to plan your visit to The Wild Animal Sanctuary early in the morning or closer to dusk. Be sure to check out the stationary binocular stations along the walkway and viewing decks or bring your own pair of binoculars for the best views of the wildlife across the sanctuary.

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The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Photo Credit: The Wild Animal Sanctuary - OutThere Colorado.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Photo Credit: The Wild Animal Sanctuary

The “Into the Wild” Running Festival, which takes place in early June and features a family 5k run/walk, 5k or 10k run, is one of the sanctuary’s biggest fundraising events. The course runs alongside the various habitats on the property giving participants a close-up view of the sanctuary’s rescued animals.  Explore more events and ways to help support the rescued animals and keep the Wild Animal Sanctuary running by visiting their website.

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