‘Walk on the Wild Side’ at animal sanctuary - East Valley Tribune: Outdoors

‘Walk on the Wild Side’ at animal sanctuary

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Posted: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 2:14 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

Once Tuesday’s presents are unwrapped and thoroughly played with — and before the kids are back in school and the relatives back on flights home — why not take a family adventure to a little-seen sanctuary north of the East Valley?

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, a nonprofit tucked into the north side of the McDowell Mountains, is offering tours of its facility through Jan. 5, 2013.

Daytime “Walk on the Wild Side” tours are a chance to see foxes, coyotes, bobcats and other mammals up close. A “Full Moon” tour, on Friday, Dec. 28, will let visitors observe how the animals behave after dark — and hot chocolate, cider and treats will be provided.

“We show you our resident animals that permanently live here, and we tell you their stories — why they wound up here and some natural history information on them,” says assistant education director Hillary Cummens. “You’re just a few feet away from mountain lions and black bears, and most of them were kept as illegal pets, so they’re used to people, and they come right up to see who’s here. It’s not like at the zoo, where you’re just kind of hoping to get a glimpse of the animals.”

Southwest Wildlife has rehabilitated thousands of sick, injured, orphaned and wild animals at its on-site medical clinic, returning more than 70 percent of them to the wild.

The animals that can’t go back live at the center’s accredited wildlife sanctuary, the country’s largest for animals native to the Southwest.

It’s also a holding facility for the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, a noteworthy wildlife effort pertinent to our time and our state. Among its residents is Fox Mountain alpha female Mexican gray wolf F1188, a wolf ordered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this past summer to be lethally removed from the wild for the depredation of cattle. Southwest Wildlife offered to pay for her live capture, instead, and to give her a permanent home. She’ll live out her natural life with other wolves of her kind at the sanctuary.

“She’s not on the tour — we’re giving her some privacy and time to adapt to her new home — but she’s doing well, and eventually she’ll be put in with another wolf so she has a buddy,” says Cummens.

Tours require reservations. The nighttime tour requires prepayment.

DETAILS >> 10 a.m. and noon Mondays through Saturdays through Jan. 5, 2013, and 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, 27026 N. 156th St., Scottsdale. $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 3-12. A nighttime tour on Friday, Dec. 28 is $20 for adults and $15 for children; pre-payment is required for that tour. Proceeds go to caring for the animals. (480) 471-3621 or SouthwestWildlife.org.

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