Mike Nelson's Colorado: Visiting the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg

KEENESBURG, Colo. - Lions, tigers, bears and more -- that's what you can see roaming at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Weld County.

"We have over 100 bears, 70 tigers, about 56 African lions, 36 wolves, mountains lions, leopards, bobcats, servals and lynx," said founder and executive director Pat Craig. "These carnivores didn't come from the wild, they were born in captivity. They ended up in some illegal situation where somebody tried to either have them as a pet in their house or was breeding and selling them illegally."

Craig has been giving these large animals a home for 34 years.

"Zoo's are full and humane societies can't take in these animals," Craig said. "It's hard to place four or five lions, let alone 25 lions. We have the land to do it."

For many years, visitors could only see a small portion of the sanctuary. But a new boardwalk called the "Mile into the Wild" allows visitors to walk above the large habitats.

Craig said the elevated walkway was important because it doesn't put on pressure on the animals.

"[The animals] don't like people being on the ground level, but they don't care if you're in the air," Craig explains. "You can be right over the top of them and it doesn't make them nervous."

While it's lots of fun to see the animals, the sanctuary also has an important message.

"Having the public come educates them about the problem and it also gives them an appreciation for seeing these animals in a much more natural setting," Craig said.

And Craig says the carnivores are happier at the sanctuary.

"Since there's no competition for food and they're not competing for territory and to breed, they actually get along really well and enjoy each playing with each other."

The Wild Animal Sanctuary is open daily except for: New Years Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day.  Admission for adults is $15. Children, ages 3-12, are $7.50.

Learn more about the sanctuary: http://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/