Category Archives: Zoos and Wildlife

Petting Farms

I drove my granddaughter, Kita, to her preschool field trip yesterday. As we made our way to Windwater Farm in Auburn, I decided to use our time together in the car as a teachable moment. I got what I deserved.

“What animals do you think you’ll see at the farm today?” I asked.

“Cows, horses, chickens and unicorns,” Kita answered confidently from the backseat. I laughed to myself and secretly wished I had her imagination.

When we first arrived at the farm, while one of the helpers was placing blanket-wrapped rabbits in the preschooler’s laps, I questioned the farm employee about the unicorns.

“Yes, we have three,” she said, expressionless. (I’m still looking for them.)

Kita feeding a guinea pig.

Kita wanted to feed the rabbits, but unfortunately when they were swaddled they didn’t have an appetite. So her bunny was replaced with a guinea pig that gnawed on the carrot she held to his mouth. She looked like she was holding a baby and wasn’t it just yesterday that she was the baby?

The kids fed goats, a pig (who was definitely not gluten-free – he preferred bread over carrots), sheep, a donkey and chickens (they ate corn). Since I’d done a cursory search of the farm’s website in the morning, I attempted to share my knowledge with Kita.

“They have chickens here that lay brown, white and green eggs,” I told her.

“Then, is their poop pink?” she asked, using her 4-year-old logic.

The highlight of the day came when Kita and her friend were lifted into the saddle of Dolly, the horse. The lady that had assured me about the unicorns led them around the pasture slowly and carefully. And Kita has now ridden her first horse. She beamed with pride over her accomplishment when she dismounted.

Kita, in pink and brown, on her first horse ride.

Unfortunately Windwater Farm is only open for field trips and private parties. But here is a list of other local farms where you can have similar experiences.

Farrel-McWhirter Park in Redmond

Fox Hollow Farm in Issaquah

Remlinger Farms in Carnation

City Goat Farm & Zoo in Spanaway

Old McDebbie’s Farm in Spanaway

Morris’s Shadow Mountain Stables in Auburn

You’ll Never Get Closer to Elk: Oak Creek Feeding Station

At the beginning of March, two other travel writers, a VisitRainier employee and I experienced the feeding of the elk at Oak Creek Feeding Station, off Highway 12 near Naches in Eastern Washington (yes, it was a press trip). We got close enough to these four-legged giants to make eye contact.

 

This supplemental feeding program, began in 1945. It was adopted so that the elk wouldn’t venture into any of the agricultural areas nearby looking for food in the winter. Depending on the weather, feedings begin sometime in December and continue until March. If you visit in January or February, you’ll have the best chance of participating.

Everything is free – you just have to sign up and put your John Henry on a disclaimer. Then you can ride out into the field in a U.S. Army truck and witness the feeding of as many as 700 elk at a time. While you patiently wait your driver dispenses facts and figures about the program and cows and bulls snuffle and shift positions anticipating the upcoming buffet of hay. Then two other vehicles roll out and automatically start dispensing the bales while the regal animals jockey for position.

 

A bull can weigh up to 600 pounds, but they have no interest in the humans staring at them. They only want the food so you’re safe.

I have never witnessed anything like this and highly recommend it as a family outing.

Here’s a story my friend Carrie Uffindall wrote about it: 

Arrive before 1 p.m. to check in, visit the small museum and watch the elk head down the hill for lunch.

Boise’s World Center for Birds of Prey: An Awe-Inspiring Experience

Lately I’ve been traveling quite a bit in the Northwest for travel writing assignments and my most recent journey took me to Boise, Idaho.

Who I slept with at Hotel 43 in Boise.

Boise is home to the World Center for Birds of Prey, a place like no other I’ve experienced and unique in the world. Birds of prey portray grace and confidence to the extent that it reminds us all that nature is in charge. Daily tours and live bird presentations here provide visitors an up close and unforgettable encounter with birds of prey. The facility showcases a California Condor exhibit, an interpretive trail with a stunning panoramic view of Boise, interactive exhibits (lots for children) and outdoor flight shows in the fall.

The Peregrine Fund, headquartered here, is a non-profit dedicated to saving birds of prey from extinction. Throughout the world these birds are threatened by shooting, poisoning and loss of habitat. A 30-year effort successfully removed the Peregrine Falcons from the endangered list. Now they are trying to help other birds of prey.

This is Wally, an Eurasian Eagle Owl in training. Notice his markings resember that of a tiger.

 

Endangered birds are raised here and released to their natural habitats.

The Falconry Archives, in a separate building, honors falcons through art. Of special note is the Arab Wing, paid for by the United Arab Emirates. Since the 1200’s Arabs have hunted with falcons. An exhibit highlights bird hoods so ornate you wonder how many hours of work it took to make them. My guide likened them to fishing flies.  

The Center is very accessible and all on one level. Plan to bring a lunch and use one of the courtyard picnic tables. You’ll not find a better view.

Kids can try on different birds of prey' wings like this one.

I highly recommend this as a must see on your bucket list. I didn’t know about it until I visited Boise, but I’m sure glad that I did.

New Red Wolf Exhibit at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Penguins at the Pt. Defiance Zoo in Tacoma.

The red wolf, courtesy Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

I love Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo for a variety of reasons. The first is that they give anyone who lives in Tacoma a discount on admission. I think they recognize that those of us who already live here could potentially be their best customers. Other reasons to favor this zoo include its cleanliness, kid-friendliness, a friendly and knowledgeable staff that is always available to answer questions for you, easy-to-find exhibits and a very cool stage for their shows.

The big news this past week-end, Labor Day, 2010 was the opening of the new red wolf exhibit.

Called Red Wolf Woods, the exhibit houses five red wolves – a breeding pair, Graham and Ocean Blue; and three 3-year-old sisters, Nami, Tala and Mika. These red wolves aren’t new to Point Defiance, but during construction of their new $1.1 million habitat, they stayed at Northwest Trek in Eatonville.

Red Wolf Woods includes hardwood trees, low grasses and shrubs, and a stream – all designed to mimic the red wolves’ native surroundings, yet give zoo guests an unobstructed view of these beautiful animals which have been brought back from the brink of extinction. In the 1970s there were only 14 of them. Today they number about 300, many of which have been reintroduced into the wild. Point Defiance Zoo played an integral role in the wolves’ 40-year  recovery program.

Did you know that a red wolf can smell a scent from two miles away?

The zoo holds lots of other treats for visitors, too.

Although we visited sans children, we took a peak at the Kid Zone and whatever kids like to do was represented. Climbing on a rope hammock, playing in sand with a cement turtle, watching meerkats and lemurs, feeding live goats to feed and learning how to care for critters were just a few of the enticements for children.

The walruses in the Rocky Shores area seemed to be putting on their own show for zoo guests by making animated noises, then swimming upside down and coming back and doing it all over again.

Pt. Defiance also has an aquarium, a very unusual phenomena at a zoo. It’s great fun to watch all the different marine life in a huge tank with shipwrecked boats.

Penguins, tigers, elephants, polar bears, pythons, leopards and more. Ride a camel, take a spin on the Paul Titus Antique Carousel, browse the wonderful gift shop or enjoy a twirl of flavors like cotton candy, bubble gum and cool mint in your ice cream cone. There’s something for everyone at the Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

For more information, visit www.pdza.org.