Nestled on vast grasslands northeast of Denver lies The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a beacon of hope for large carnivores in need. Founded in 1980, this 501(c)(3) non-profit organization has become a leader in rescuing and caring for abused, abandoned or otherwise displaced big cats, bears and wolves.

A tiger in the grass at the Wild Animal Sanctuary near Denver, ColoradoThe sanctuary's mission is clear: To provide a permanent, safe haven for these magnificent creatures and educate the public about the plight of captive wildlife. With more than 1,000 animals having found refuge within its borders, The Wild Animal Sanctuary tackles a critical issue. Their website states that thousands of large carnivores languish in captivity outside of zoos in the United States, with some estimates suggesting up to 4,000 tigers kept as private pets in Texas alone.

These animals often face a bleak future. Many come from situations of neglect or abuse, with inadequate enclosures and poor diets. The Wild Animal Sanctuary steps in, offering spacious habitats designed to replicate the animals' natural environments as closely as possible. These expansive enclosures, spanning hundreds of acres, provide ample room for roaming, enrichment activities and a semblance of the wild lives they may have never known.

The sanctuary isn't just about offering a comfortable retirement home. Their dedicated staff, including more than 160 volunteers, provides exceptional care for each resident. This includes specialized diets, veterinary services and enrichment programs that stimulate the animals' natural behaviors. Whether it's scattering food to encourage hunting instincts or providing climbing structures for bears, The Wild Animal Sanctuary prioritizes the physical and mental well-being of its residents.

But The Wild Animal Sanctuary's impact goes beyond offering a sanctuary. They are vocal advocates for captive wildlife reform, educating the public about the dangers of the exotic pet trade and the often tragic consequences for both the animals and the communities they impact. Through guided tours for visitors, their website, and educational outreach programs, they raise awareness about responsible wildlife interaction and the importance of conservation.
Wolves in the grass at the Wild Animal Sanctuary near Denver, Colorado
The sanctuary itself is a unique destination for those who want to learn more about these majestic creatures. Visitors can embark on self-guided tours along elevated walkways, offering safe observation points of lions, tigers, bears and wolves in their expansive habitats. This immersive experience allows visitors to connect with the animals on a deeper level and gain a firsthand perspective of the sanctuary's mission.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary is constantly expanding its reach. In 2022, they acquired a massive 9,004-acre ranch near Springfield, Colorado, aptly named The Wild Animal Refuge. While not open to the public, this remote area provides much-needed space for future rescues and allows for even larger enclosures for their animal residents.

In 2023, the sanctuary acquired an additional 23,000 acres in northwest Colorado to help hundreds of wild mustangs that had been rounded up and removed from the Bureau of Land Management lands. The rescued wild horses were returned to the wild areas within the newly created Wild Horse Refuge.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary's dedication to rescuing and caring for large carnivores and rewilding mustangs is truly inspiring. By providing a safe haven, promoting responsible wildlife practices and educating the public, they play a vital role in ensuring a brighter future for these remarkable animals. If you're ever in the Denver area, consider a visit to The Wild Animal Sanctuary. It's an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for these magnificent creatures and the sanctuary's critical work.

Learn more at