Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Okay… Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary, formerly known as Yellow River Game Ranch, doesn’t have lions, or tigers, but I couldn’t help myself. The sanctuary, originally founded in 1962, celebrated its grand re-opening in May of this year. The sanctuary opened with new ownership, a new name and a new mission. The team at Yellow River provides care and life-long homes to animals that are unreleasable, while educating the community on the importance of caring for wildlife and their natural habitats.
When Katy and Jonathan Ordway heard about the closing of Yellow River Game Ranch in late 2018 they were concerned about the animals and how they would be cared for. The pair acquired the property and quickly went to work making extensive improvements on site and dreaming up plans for the future. With a great staff and strong partnerships in place the team now provides the resident animals with the best life possible and has brought this unique attraction back to life.
I’ve always been an animal lover, so I jumped at the chance to go check out Yellow River’s new digs. The sanctuary is currently restricting capacity (thanks, covid) and tickets must be purchased in advance. The venue is easy to find and has free parking on site. The trails are mostly paved, but there are some areas that are dirt/gravel. I was glad we left the stroller in the car unlike some other poor struggling souls we witnessed. With the limited capacity and additional safety measures in place (hand washing stations, social distancing enforced, masks required inside the gift shop) we felt completely comfortable at all times and had no trouble getting to see, touch and feed all of the animals.
The sanctuary has over 30 different varieties of animals including a miniature horse, kinkajous, bison, black bears and an abundance of peacocks (the only animal to roam the property freely). Feed cups filled with lettuce & carrots can be purchased in advance, or upon arrival and I highly recommend spending the extra $5 for this experience. There is a guide for which animals you can feed and a petting zoo where you can get up close and personal with goats, llamas, cows and a donkey who could teach a class on posing for photos. We were disappointed that we didn’t see a black bear, but with a 2-acre enclosure all to themselves they have plenty of room to wander and hide. One of our favorite experiences was the bunnies. They have a large enclosure where visitors can take turns going in to pet, feed and play with the bunnies.
If you are interested in seeing specific animals it’s worth a call in advance to make sure they are there and out in their enclosures. My son loves turtles and talked about seeing one all morning, but when we got there we found out that due to the cooler temperatures the Sulcata Tortoises were inside under heat lamps. We did get to see the Eastern Box Turtles and to a two year old that was all the same! We also saw a few signs on empty enclosures where animals were out receiving medical treatment. There are two Yellow River residents that you will never see during the day. Jett and Clara are Great Pyrenees who are in charge of protecting the livestock when keepers aren’t present. During the day they are busy playing fetch and getting belly rubs, but at night they roam the grounds and make sure the animals are safe from predators.
We had a wonderful time at Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary and would highly recommend it for animal lovers of all ages. Be sure to buy tickets in advance, check the weather and wear comfy shoes for an ideal visit. Want to support the animals and keepers? Visit the website at yellowriverwildlifesanctuary.com and check out their ways to help page to see volunteer opportunities, as well as needed items. You can also stay up to date with the team on Instagram @yellowriverwildlife.