Want to transform an ordinary family day trip into an extraordinary opportunity to see—and even interact with—amazing animals, from elephants to wolves and raptors to big cats? You don’t have to go on safari. Here are some places you can get wild right here in Indiana!
Want to walk with the elephants? At Southern Indiana’s Wilstem Wildlife Park, you can interact with these majestic creatures, from baths and learning encounters to photo ops and morning routines. You’ll also find giraffes, kangaroos, lemurs, sloths, and grizzly bears here. Along with day trips, you can book encounters and educational experiences with the animals, ranging from 30 minutes to over two hours.
And if the park suits your fancy, come back for an overnight stay in one of Wilstem’s cabins, from studio and one-bedroom accommodations up to five or more bedrooms for large families.
Fascinated by wolves? This private non-profit facility is home to three packs of human-raised wolves who serve as ambassadors for their wild kin.
During your visit (weekends only), you’ll meet the wolves face to face. Plan to wear long pants, a t-shirt, and closed-toed shoes—or, better yet, rubber boots. Leave everything – sunglasses, gloves, purses, and anything else you carry – in your car, except for your smartphone so you can take pictures.
Why no sunglasses? The wolves must be able to see your eyes.
Special programs for veterans offer opportunities for healing in the company of the wolves, and a sponsorship program enables you to support the care and feeding of individual animals.
Along with the wolves, you’ll also find foxes and rabbits here. If your visit prompts a desire to spend more time, you can camp or rent a cabin.
Unlike Wolf Creek, which is situated on its owners’ private land, Wolf Park is an education and research facility that studies predators and teaches visitors about the impact of wild animals on our planet’ ecosystem. In collaboration with researchers around the world, Wolf Park aids in studies of behavior, consciousness, wild/captive animal comparisons, and more. Along with its wolves, the center also is home to coyotes, foxes, and bison, all of whom live enriched lives.
Guided tours give you an opportunity to learn about the animals and see them up close. Other programs include Howl Night, for a chance to observe the wolves during their prime hours of activity, along with special events, summer camps for youngsters, and more.
One of the largest U.S. rescue centers for exotic felines is right here in Indiana, and when you visit, you can see lions, tigers, and more than eight other species. The EFRC provides a lifelong home for a big-cat population that exceeds 150, all of them rescued from abuse, neglect, and abandonment across 24 states.
Don’t expect to touch or pet these felines, or get into an enclosure and interact with them, as these are wild creatures whose only direct human involvement is with the staff of 15 who care for them. Hour-long tours take place rain or shine when the center is open to the public, with a limited number of golf carts available to the first to request them. Along with special events, the center also offers overnight stays with behind-the-scenes access to non-public areas.
Make a tour reservation so you can visit for a chance to see and learn about a wide range of raptor species, including owls, falcons, buzzards, kestrels, woodpeckers, vultures, and merlin. InRC’s birds either were orphaned at a very young age or came to live at this non-profit facility after sustaining injuries that needed specialty care and rehabilitation, and many have disabilities that prevent them from living independently.
Visitors can see these fascinating creatures up close, and find out how the center rescues, cares for, and, whenever possible, releases birds of prey back into the wild. InRC also offers educational programs that deliver specialized insights into how these birds fly, live, behave, and form part of our environment.
Even if you’re not ready to visit one of these wildlife centers right away, consider making a donation, “adopting” an animal to cover food and medical costs, or telling a friend about some truly environmentally friendly destinations. It’s a wild way you can make a difference for some amazing creatures!