Thursday, 01 October 2009 00:00    E-mail
Animal Sanctuary: Rescued animals given safe, secure home

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The Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott recently adopted that new name to better

define what the organization actually does. Known as the Heritage Park Zoo since opening to the public in 1988, Heritage Park has never been a zoo per se, although animals are on display… when they feel like coming out of their night shelters and greeting visitors.

The animals at Heritage Park were not purchased or acquired as dolls in a collection intended to amuse those who visit them.  These animals were all rescued from undesirable situations.

The sanctuary’s motto is “conservation through education,” and hopes that by educating the public they can help ensure the sustained existence of wildlife species throughout the world.

Porcupine-story1Heritage Park, located on 10 acres north of Prescott, is home to about 100 rescued animals that need a place of safety and security to live out their lives. The new name better reflects that mission.

“All the animals here have come to us as a means of rescue,” said Shannon Gansz, education coordinator at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. “We don’t buy or purchase animals. They have all been rescued. And we have an animal from every continent, except Antarctica.”

And because Heritage Park is not a typical zoo, one cannot always expect the animals to be visible.

“While most zoos put their animals out in the morning and lock the night houses, we don’t,” said Pam McLaren, executive director at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. “Our animals have the option of staying in or coming out. The downside of that is that the animals may not be outside when you come to visit.”

The animals

This has been a difficult year at Heritage Park with the deaths of Samson the tiger, Inca the jaguar and Abbey the mountain lion.

When the staff learned of a zoo in Nebraska that was closing and three Bengal tigers were among the soon-to-be homeless animals, director McLaren drove to Nebraska and brought Cassie home to Heritage Park.  Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in Valentine took in Cassie’s two brothers—Victor and William.

Tiger5“Cassie eats about 12 pounds of meat per day,” McLaren said. “It’s a little more than she needs, but before coming here she lived with her two brothers and between them they only got one whole animal per week. So she is used to scavenging for her food. We have been giving her a little bit more than she needs because she is still a baby.” Cassie turned 3 in April.

Cassie definitely draws a lot of attention—especially when she splashes in her pool and plays with her oversized rubber ball.

MtnLionJade is the new mountain lion at Heritage Park. She came to the sanctuary from Arizona Game & Fish, which had confiscated her after discovering she was being kept illegally as a pet.

“She has been declawed,” Gansz said. “She was someone’s housecat, so she is imprinted to humans and can’t live in the wild. She’s 2 and just loves all the attention she gets here.” Heritage Park is still without a jaguar, which is its mascot and is featured on all informational materials.

Two bobcats may soon call the jaguar habitat home. “We are holding two baby bobcats for Game & Fish,” McLaren said. “They are not siblings, but both were abandoned. They were born in late spring. They cannot go into the jaguar enclosure until they get bigger.  Right now, they could easily get through the openings in the fence.”

BobcatBabyIn the meantime, the bobcats live in the night house portion of the jaguar habitat.  McLaren said Heritage Park does about 150 to 200 rescues a year for injured and abandoned wildlife.

“We can have three to five rescues on any given day,” she said. “Most of the birds that we rescue that need rehabilitation go down to the Wildlife Center at Adobe Mountain.  Birds are the number one rescue and that can range from owls to hawks to songbirds. We do a lot of quail rescues in the spring. Probably 75 percent of the rescues we do are birds of some sort. Then, there are the mammals… havalina, deer, bobcat, raccoon and skunk.”

Even the ducks in the pond are rescues.  “A woman purchased some ducklings for her children at Easter,” McLaren said. “Then, of course, they get bigger and no one wanted them.” Now the ducks live happily on a pond outside the jaguar enclosure.

One deer at Heritage Park was confiscated by Game & Fish from someone who had poached his mother, found the fawn and decided to keep him. The two other deer came to Heritage Park when their mothers were hit by cars. They are orphans. “In the season when babies are born, mothers don’t tend to get around as well,” McLaren said. “So they tend to be victims of forest fires or cars.”

Bear1A rescued fawn died the night before Earth Odyssey’s visit to Heritage Park.  The fawn, which had a broken leg, had been rescued from Williamson Valley.  “He had just been born that day and mom was with him,” McLaren said. “The vet tried to save his leg. He went through a big, long medical procedure, but they finally had to amputate the leg because it wasn’t healing right. He’s been doing well, but yesterday he just crashed. He died last night and we are still evaluating what happened.”

Shash, an American Black Bear, came to Heritage Park when he was less than 6-months-old. His mother was illegally shot in Montana by a hunter who turned himself in when he saw the cub.

“Shash was hand-raised,” McLaren said.  “A caretaker took him home at night and brought him back during the day.”


If you think the cost of feeding your family is expensive, try feeding more than 100 animals a day. “Food is about $22,000 per year, but keep in mind that most of our meat is donated,” McLaren said. “We spend the most on produce and that’s about $300 per week.”

McLaren said donated meat comes from three primary sources: hunters, Game & Fish and local grocery stores. “Hunters bring in game meat,” she said.  “As long as the meat is not preseasoned, we take it.” Game & Fish will bring road kill to Heritage Park if they get to it soon enough after the animal is killed.

“Safeway is our primary donor of meat,” McLaren said. “Once a week, we pickup outof-date meat from two Safeway stores. Our meat sources are much more abundant than our dry food and produce.”

Olsen’s Grain is the primary supplier for hay and dry food—the packaged hoof-stock food. McLaren said produce is the most expensive because many of the animals are vegetarian.

A group of volunteers started a community garden this year and much of the production from that garden is used to feed the animals.  McLaren added that they welcome surplus vegetables from gardeners as long as the produce is pesticide free.

Volunteers are vital in the daily operations of Heritage Park. “We have 13 paid staff members, including four keepers—and that’s for seven days a week,” McLaren said. “It takes three keepers on any given day to get the work done. So, we rely on volunteers.”

About 150 volunteers supplement the Heritage Park staff, McLaren said. “About 75 are active, which means they come in once a week and have a specific schedule and a specific thing that they do,” she said. “We also have a host of volunteers who work from home doing a lot of administrative tasks, such as mailings and computer work.”

McLaren added that behavioral enrichment volunteers and education docents come in as needed, as do a host of volunteers who work on special events. Volunteers are always needed and appreciated. To become a volunteer, pick up an application from the gift shop.

Heritage Park offers a number of programs and outreach classes designed to teach adults and children about wildlife. Classes include “Predators of the Sky,” “Beaks, Feet and Feathers,” “Scales and Nails” and “Creepy Crawlies.”

To learn more about the programs and classes at Heritage Park, visit the Web site at

If you go

Raccoon1Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary is located at 1403 Heritage Park Road in Prescott, across Willow Creek from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. The entrance to the sanctuary is on the right side of the driveway as you enter Heritage Park, located on the corner of Willow Creek Road and Heritage Park Road. For detailed directions, see www. and select the drop down Visiting tab.

A calendar of events at Heritage Park is online at