Lions, Tigers, and Bears! Safari experience, Colorado-style
The elevated walkway ascends from the Wild Animal Sanctuary gift shop and orientation point. We step up the inclined path, passing above lazing leopards, tigers and mountain lions below, then continue past a green arrow pointing to the Bolivian Lion Complex.
The walkway is wide and sturdy and varies between 20 and 40 feet above the enclosures below, where 350 large carnivores roam this little-known, fenced-in Serengeti of the West, only 30 miles northeast of Denver. The height of the walkway is "so the animals don't feel their territory or personal space is threatened," explains my guide, Kent Drotar, who has been working at the Wild Animal Sanctuary for six of the 10 years it has been open to the public. This makes the creatures less stressed and more likely to act naturally, even though most were born in captivity and have only their instincts to follow.
When we arrive at the lion house, Kent points over yonder to the enormous new visitor center they are constructing, along with another half-mile of walkway over more enclosures. The new features should open to the public in the spring, he says. Then we turn around and head back. The wind is picking up, but the animals below look warm and unfazed.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is located at 1946 County Road 53, Keenesburg. It is open until sunset nearly every day of the year. Be prepared for slightly more extreme weather up on that exposed walkway.
For more info, call 303-536-0118 or go to wildanimalsanctuary.org.