Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Wilds

We have been talking about a trip to The Wilds for years but never managed to make it to Cumberland, Ohio for the visit.  Every year we say that we must make it there the next year but it slips of the radar until they are closed for the season and we missed another year.  We decided that this is time to go. Since this was the last day they would be open for visitors in 2019 we were glad that we made the trip.
Cheetah lounging at The Wilds

The Wilds is a huge expanse of open land built on over 9,000 acres of a reclaimed strip mine site about midway between Pittsburgh and Columbus.  The facility is a collaboration of several agencies including the zoos of Ohio to preserve and manage rare and endangered wildlife in a location that the public can enjoy them in a setting similar to their native habitats.
Because The Wilds is nearly a three hour dive from our small apartment in Huntington we left early and picked up our friend, Tammy Minor, around 6 am.  We enjoyed the drive up chatting and catching up with Tammy.  We had been on this route before on trips to Cleveland and northern Ohio because we remembered the signs for Big Muskie Bucket, one of the world's larget single bucket digging machine ever built and is one of the world's largest mobile earth moving machines.  This surface mining machines, a dragline whose bucket could hold 220 cubic yards of material was in operation at this site from 1969 until 1991.
Przewalski's Horses
We arrived at The Wilds a little before their first tour at 10 am so we took the time to walk around the small but informative visitor center.  Because the weather was very cool on this late October day we warmed up in the buildings before boarding the open air transports that would take us through the park. There is a facility for breeding hellbenders, large aquatic salamanders that are native to the area's streams.  However, that building was being used for a tour by a group of Girl Scouts that day so we were unable to see the hellbenders.
Pere David Deer
The vehicles appeared to be retired school buses that had been modified for sightseeing trips with sides cut away allowing better views of the wildlife.  We bundled up knowing that the trip would be cool.  Our vehicle was fairly full with people of a variety of ages but there was plenty of room to move about to get snapshots of the animals.
One of our first stops was at the rare Pere David's Deer that were rescued from almost certain extinction and are now thriving in US zoos.  From there we drove through many other types of deer and exotic hooved animals.  Perhaps the highlight of the trip was an unexpected roadblock by a group of Bactrian camels.   These are not the one humped Dromedary camels of the Middle East but are the two humped camels of Central Asia.  These giants appeared to just want to scratch and rub on the side of the vehicle even managing to rip one of the outside mirrors loose.  Our guide eventually called for the wildlife specialists to come lure the camels away from the bus with buckets of food.  The treats seemed to work and we continued our trip around the facility.
Camels blocking the tour bus
Other memorable animals that we saw included cheetahs, zebras, ostrich, Przewalski's horse and many varieties of deer and antelope.  In all the trip took nearly two hours, bringing us back to the visitor center at noon.  We took our packed lunches to a place to eat outside since the warm sunshine felt good on the cool autumn day.  We watched other visitors taking zipline tours of the area but we felt that it would be better to try that on a warmer day.
After walking around the grounds for a while we departed for home having enjoyed the day and promising to come back in spring on early fall when we could see different animals out on a warmer day.