The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Keenesburg CO

Colorado is fast becoming one of our favorite weekend destinations. Cheap flights in and out of DEN and a 2.5 hour travel time from the bay area makes it the perfect destination for a quick trip. Add in the breweries, restaurants and mountain views, and you have the perfect spot for a mini vacation!

For this last trip, we spent 48 hours in the Denver area. After spending our first day walking around downtown, enjoying Washington Park and visiting the Molly Brown House Museum, we chose to spend our second day outside of the city.

Our destination? The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg CO! The sanctuary is only about an hour away from downtown and equidistant to the Denver airport.

Denver Map

So what is the Wild Animal Sanctuary? It is a wildlife park that is home to over 500 rescued animals. The entrance fee is $30 per adult and the price of admission doubles as a tax deductible donation. The money paid goes directly toward animal rescue and rehabilitation at the sanctuary.

At the start of your visit, you will be asked to watch a video orientation. This intro is very informative and helps you to better understand why the sanctuary is so important. The video explains that there are an estimated 25,000 wild animals living outside the zoo system. These thousands of wild creatures are being kept in private residences, sold as babies for “pets” and forced to live in prison like conditions as they are chained in backyards, apartments and garages.

Because these animals have never known the outside world or even others of their own species, they cannot safely be introduced to the wild. As an alternative to euthanization, the sanctuary provides these rescued animals with a habitat to live in.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary has pioneered a rehabilitation system for these creatures to help them thrive.

Starting with smaller individual enclosures, the animals are slowly introduced to others of their own species and then moved into larger habitats where they can roam and live out the remainder of their lives in freedom.

For the first two decades of the sanctuary’s operation, it remained closed to the public. This is because when unfamiliar humans approach wild animals, it causes them extreme stress. Visitors trigger the animals “fight or flight” instinct. Because traditional enclosures are designed to both entrap them and protect humans, the animals can neither fight or run away. The dilemma of being trapped and unable to protect themselves causes the animals extreme stress. They handle this stress by pacing back and forth; a behavior you have probably seen at traditional zoos.

This emotional trauma was not something the sanctuary wanted to inflict on the animals, so they pioneered an ingenious solution; an elevated walkway.

The sanctuary discovered that although predators are territorial about being approached at the ground level, they do not feel threatened by things happening above them. With this in mind, the sanctuary built a 1.5 mile long, raised observation deck for humans to walk through the park.

Now, visitors can help fund the sanctuary and view the animals without causing them emotional harm. The raised pathway is ADA accessible and there are restrooms along the path as well as a snack bar and picnic areas. You can walk along the observation deck at your leisure and spend the day watching large cats and other predators enjoy their newfound freedom.

Although this accessible walkway design is built to accommodate families, it’s important to note that the sanctuary is not a zoo. Small kids should not run around unsupervised. Additionally, children’s expectations should be tempered. The animals in the sanctuary are not corralled for your entertainment, so you are not guaranteed to see all of the animals. We heard some very clever parents explaining that this simply makes the sightings even more special!

Not only is The Wild Animal Sanctuary a wonderful place to educate yourself about different species of carnivores, it is a wonderful spot to enjoy the majestic landscape of Colorado. The rolling plains and mountain views are an incredible sight to take in. We can’t help but hope that sanctuaries like these will replace traditional zoos, in order to educate people and help them enjoy the beauty of nature.

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