Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado

The first thing my relatives and I saw was a sign asking us to drive away from the premises if we were unwilling to learn. The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, right outside Denver, Colorado prides itself in saving large carnivores from captivity and abuse. Among the animals roaming around, you will find wolves, tigers, lions and bears.

According to the sanctuary’s website, they take in small animals such as raccoon, yet focus on the larger ones, those whose lives are at greater risk: at the face of greater living expenses, amounting up to eight thousand dollars a year, animals like bears are among the first in line to be euthanized.

The sanctuary opened its doors to the public and started selling merchandise in order to survive, yet its real passion is the care for these animals and the education of the public on these animals and their salvation.

This is not the place to fulfill fantasies of cuddling with lions and bears. You will not see them jumping for enthusiastic audience applause.

Visitors get one, very clear walkaway above ground, and one terrace. They are recommended to bring binoculars or a large-zoomed cameras if they are interested in getting the full experience. The animals have wide spaces to run around, they have pools and games for their entertainment. They even have spaces hidden from the crowds, hidden from the cold, hidden from heat. They are welcome to go there any time they please.

An employee told us that not one animal has attempted to escape since the sanctuary’s foundation, because the animals know they are cared for.

As we entered the walkway, we saw a gravestone for Freckles, the first carnivore  the sanctuary saved. I’m not sure whether this jaguar, who died in 2004, is actually buried there, yet the homage felt like a symbol to the place’s care for its animals.

At first, we saw animals via bars, as if a reminder that the animals are still captive and might never know to handle the wild enough to stay alive outside.

Each animal has its own spaces, yet others from their species can come in for a visit through holes that were created by the sanctuary for the sake of animal connection.

Pretty soon, the above-the-ground walkaway turned out to be great for viewing and photography.

We came mid-day, after lunch at the airport as I flew in that morning from Boston, and therefore found many animals snoozing.

Like humans, they dream in more than one position.

Some were awake, whether just waking up, on their way to sleep or off wandering around.

One tiger was either licking a red stone or eating meat.

When we looked back at the sleeping tigers, we discovered that the holes of connection were no fairy tale: two tigers lay together where before there was only one.

Birds flew up in a group close to where a wolf looked at me in silence.

Lions spent the time mostly in the shade, mostly together.

And what about the bears, you ask? Bears, my central reason for coming, were the most challenging to capture in lens. They wandered as far and wide as they could, and these are the best shots I got while using my 30X zoom to its greatest capacity.

Today, only a few months after our visit, a longer stretch of the walkway is open to the public, enhancing your wildlife viewing chances. It is probably best to come in the morning, when animals might not be as sleepy and won’t seek a hideaway from the sun.


Have you ever been to a wild animal sanctuary?



  1. Thanks! Here I used the Fuji FinePix S4000. I love it, yet it’s very unreliable (can detail if you’re interested). Next time I’ll include a camera in the trip budget in advance and upgrade.

  2. Fantastic photos! Great to see such close-up pictures of animals that I don’t get to see every day. Except the bears of course. They always seem to be wandering around up here where I live.
    How far outside Denver is this place?
    Steve recently posted..Country Inn & Suites in Kendall FloridaMy Profile

    • So you have both snow and bears? I think next time I’m on that part of the world, I’ll need to include Canada. I would love to see bears in the wild! I think the sanctuary is about an hour from the Denver airport.

  3. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is 45 minutes North East of Denver. They are open 7 days a week, except for mayor holidays from 9 am to 4 pm and during the Summer they are open from 9 am to Sunset!(for Wild Nights)which is a great time of the day to see all the animals.
    Please visit the website or call if you have any questions

  4. The photos of these sleeping animals are absolutely adorable! I’ve never been to a sanctuary before. I would actually like to visit this one, now that you’ve written about it. It’s really wonderful to hear how well these innocent animals are treated and that they have wide open spaces in which to live.

    When you say that the bears are amongst the first to be euthanized due to the cost of keeping them, do you mean other places want to euthanize them and the sanctuary saves them from this, or that the sanctuary euthanizes them? Surely they wouldn’t do that because they go to such efforts to give them great lives.

    • It was funny to see all their sleeping positions 🙂 I meant that other places want to euthanize the large animals, such as bears, because their living expenses (for example, food) are so large. This sanctuary makes an extra effort to focus on saving the large animals, therefore they take in less small animals than other places would, in order to spare the large animals’ lives. Small animals, whose living expenses are smaller, are cared for in other places as well. This sanctuary invests most of the money in keeping the large animals from getting euthanized.


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