wild animal sanctuary

Denver isn’t just microwbrews and handmade festivals. Which is why yesterday, on an overcast, rainy Sunday we headed to The Wild Animal Sanctuary, about 45 minutes northeast of the city in Keenesburg, Colorado.

For a few years I’ve been meaning to visit the sanctuary, but I’d never gotten around to making the trip. To everyone I say: Go. Go now. Go 5 minutes ago.

This was one of the coolest places I’ve been. Unlike a zoo, the animals are living in wide open spaces. The sanctuary is located on 720 acres (and expanding) of land and is home to 290 lions, tigers, bears, coyote, and a ton of other big cats and interesting animals. Because they have space to stretch out with their pride/families/buddies, they act like themselves vs. their sad, “boring” zoo counterparts.

We saw bears fighting and swimming, heard lions roaring and wolves howling, and watched tigers prance around like happy kitties.

photoTip: Every day, the sanctuary is open until dusk. We had a couple staff members tell us that if we come in the future but don’t have a lot of time, come during that 3-5pm time slot at the end of the day to get your money’s worth. At dusk the animals get most active – playing, running, making noise, and celebrating the end of a hot day.

I would also encourage going on a cloudy/overcast day like we did. It kept the beating sun away, and I was told when the sun is out and scorching hot, the bears hide in their caves and the animals tend to lay around, exhausted from the heat.

1 Rehab

All of the animals who come to the sanctuary are rescued from homes, circuses, breeders… all over. These tigers were new to the sanctuary, and are in the rehabilitation center where they’ll kick it for a while before running lose in the open fields.3 Close Up 2 - Big Kitty

Big kitty.19 Tiger Stare5 Lots of Bears 6 - Bear Food 7 Standing Grizzly

Grizzlies. Big, scary grizzlies.

IMG_14318 Bear Bath

9 Looking Tasty 18 MaxMax, our 1,600 pound Kodiak friend. Max likes to chill out in his private tub and put out the vibe for the ladies.4 Lions 10 Happy Kitties 11 Feeding TimeLining up to be fed. Feeling nervous for whoever’s job it was to drive around the golf cart filled with raw meat.15 Never Turn BackTurning your back on more than 30 bears is a really good way to get yourself eaten. Posing for a picture made me more than nervous.

IMG_142613 WolvesMore than one of our furry friends looked at us as potential lunch yesterday. This did nothing to ease my worries about what lurks in the dark while we’re camping…

14 Wolves



    1. SO cool – and yes, I’m just being incredibly dramatic. I probably should have included this in the post, but there is a mile long elevated bridge that guests walk along. It runs right through the areas where the animals are, but you are high up and certainly never at any risk.

      But, driving in, all that separates you from like 100 brown bears is a fence, and that really creeped me out! It’s really cool – when you have a day where you’re thinking, I’m bored, what should I do today? go check it out.

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