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Predators are at home within their fences

Liz Evans Scolforo
717-505-5429/@LizScolforoYD

Editor's note: This story originally ran in The York Dispatch on Aug. 6, 2015:

KEENESBURG, COLO. — Like each new sanctuary arrival, Ricki started her new sanctuary life in an introduction pen, which staffers call a "lockout" and can be smaller than the animal's previous home.

The locking pens, including Ricki's, are inside multi-acre fenced-in habitats where other animals of the same species already reside.

Tigers are just some of the large predators that roam freely in large-acreage habitats at The Wild Animal Sanctuary outside Keenesburg, Colorado.
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

Pat Craig, executive director of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, said that allows the new arrival and its habitat-mates to get to know each other safely. If they can't get along, staff will know that before any animals are injured.

Craig said even longtime sanctuary residents take comfort in the fences on their habitat borders because they feel protected from larger predators, such as prides of lions. When Craig opens a habitat's gates, the residents don't try to escape, he said.

"This is the grandest home they've ever had," he said. "They're happy."

A timber wolf sits quietly in its large-acreage habitat at The Wild Animal Sanctuary outside Keenesburg, Colorado.
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

He said that's because the sanctuary's residents have never known a life in the wild.

Any wild predator would be restless if confined, even in one of the sanctuary's large-acreage habitats — especially bears, which can roam up to a hundred miles a day, according to Craig.

"All they've known their whole lives are fences," he said. "Half of 'em don't know they're a bear or a lion or a tiger when they first get here."

This lion rules over his pride in their large-acreage habitat at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Most male sanctuary residents are neutered after arriving, because the facility has a no-breeding policy. But Executive Director Pat Craig said male lions aren't neutered because they would lose their manes. Instead, female lions are fitted with two-year contraceptive implants.
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

For more information or to make a donation, visit wildanimalsanctuary.org.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo atlevans@yorkdispatch.comor on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

Tigers are just some of the large predators that roam freely in large-acreage habitats at The Wild Animal Sanctuary outside Keenesburg, Colorado.
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)