A Wildlife Park in Arizona that is totally bearable
Beneath towering ponderosa pines, the160-acre park, Bearizonia, rescues wild animals and invites the public to view them in their natural environments. Education and conservation are key messages that people bring away with them, as well as the enjoyment of seeing these gorgeous creatures up close.
Starting with a scenic three-mile drive through I could observe North American animals such as black bears, bison, wolves, burros, bighorn sheep, deer and goats in their natural habitats, all from the safety of my vehicle. After this, I visited the 20-acre walk-through section of the park where I enjoyed seeing badgers, beavers, bobcats, grizzly bears, elk and foxes, as well as other smaller animals.
As I drove through the park, I kept to the speed of vehicles in front of me. At some of the animal sites, I wanted to spend longer observing them at their leisure and play. Fortunately, you can drive through as many times as you want, without paying a re-entry fee.
(Please excuse the fuzziness of some of the pictures below. They are taken from my car as I drove through, and most of the exhibits require you to keep your windows wound all the way up. At all times during the drive through, visitors must keep inside their cars.)
All the Cous deer in Bearizonia come from Arizona and are found throughout the United States. They are herbivores and live for between nine to eleven years.
The American Burro is found in North American Deserts. When travelling through Arizona you often find them in the wild. The tourist town of Oatman Arizona is famous for their street wandering burros. Living between 25-30 years, these animals are also herbivores. In bygone mining days, they were used to carry heavy burdens.
Alsakan Tundra Wolves
Watching the tundra wolves at play was entertaining. They chased each other in circles, playfully nipping at tails. It was like watching children enjoying themselves. These carnivores usually live along the coast of Northern Alaska. While they live for six to eight years in the wild, they have been known to live up to seventeen years in captivity.
Junior Black Bears
Found throughout most of North America, these omnivore bears live for up to twenty years. They often lose their fear of humans and raid trash cans, pet food and bird feeders. People also often feed them, but these are wild creatures and should be respected for that, not treated as pets. Often, they are caught and euthanized. We are lucky to have the opportunity to see them at the park.
The magnificent antlers on these sheep give the animal its name. A herbivore, they live for ten years in the wild, and up to twenty in captivity. They are usually found in Southern Canada, the Rocky Mountains, the desert and parts of Texas. They can weigh as much as 300 pounds and are the largest sheep in North America. Is that a smile on his face as he poses for my camera?
Before entering the different enclosures, signs announce the animals you are about to view. Warnings are there to be adhered to, not as a suggestion!
Adult Black Bear
This omnivore was being fed as I drove through. The keepers place the food near the road, which is ideal, as it brings the animals close enough for visitors to see. They live for around twenty years. Again, I am glad to have the opportunity to see them up close, while in the safety of my car. At up to 2m (6ft) tall and as much as 400kg (902lb), the windows of my vehicle were definitely closed tight.
After the drive through, I visited the 20-acre walk-through section of the park where I enjoyed seeing badgers, beavers, bobcats, grizzly bears, elk and foxes, as well as other smaller animals.
Three rescued grizzly bear cubs have called the park their home since 2020. They were feeling sleepy when I visited, so it was an advantage that glass paneling allows people to still see them, even when they are resting. Their habitat has been specifically designed just for them, at a cost of more than one million dollars. Moats, rock ridges and railings are all good vantage points to view the grizzlys when they are out and about. The bears play in a nearly 40,000-foot exhibit complete with two waterfalls and underwater play areas. They have the adorable names of Sky, Crockett and Hanna.
Canyon Lands restaurant has sculptured canyons, life sized eagles and a black jaguar. The canyon walls were constructed with a steel and sheet metal framing. This was covered in foam, plaster and concrete to create this realistic canyon.
Pay attention to all the small details when visiting. The canyon feeling is enhanced with glimpses of a painted sky when you look upwards. It enhances the realistic vibe.
Josh, Jesse and Jonathan LaBenne (the Bear Man) carved the mama grizzly bear into the support pole. Her little cubs look down from their perches above. Jonathan designed the Canyon Lands restaurant as well as several art pieces around the park.
Another sculpture by the LaBenne family is "Inspiration Gone Wild" next to the otter enclosure, just outside the gift shop. The giant grizzly bear is at the base of a real tree. Three grizzly bear cubs are climbing the tree and being met by otters. The cubs are so cute. This is such a popular spot in the park for people to take selfies that there was quite a lineup of humans waiting their turn. You cannot see the top in the picture below, but a bald eagle sits at the top of the tree.
At different spontaneous times of the day there are various animal encounters throughout the park. I was fortunate to time it just right to see the vultures flying from one keeper to another. The keepers also gave a talk about the animal, short and informative. I really enjoy being educated while having fun.
1500 E. Route 66
Williams, AZ 86046