We must have zipped past the Muskoka Wildlife Centre at least a half dozen times since it’s located right on Highway 11 North in the Gravenhurst area… not realizing what we had just missed! The Muskoka Wildlife Centre is not zoo but rather a sanctuary for un-releasable animals— un-releasable mostly due to the abuse of humans. The Centre refers to itself as an “interactive learning park” where people can get up-close and personal with wild animals, while learning about different species, their characteristics, and personal histories. Park staff offer regularly scheduled “Meet the Creature” sessions where animals are presented live and “in person” to visitors. We were fortunate enough to arrive at the centre during one of these sessions and pet an opossum, get a frighteningly close glance at a skunk, and watch a snake climb up a person’s arm.
Muskoka Wildlife Centre- Possom
The park’s main building is home to several different animals; including owls, snakes, a rabbit, a flying squirrel, toads, an opossum, a badger, a skunk, and a marten. The fifty acres of walking trails that feature exhibits of wild animals, all native to Ontario , are the highlight of a visit to the Centre. As we walked along the nicely groomed paths, we were able see animals that we would most likely never get to see in person—no matter how much camping or hiking we do! The fence-lined enclosures offer the Centre’s residents a natural setting and often include foliage, hills or shelter that is suitable for the animal. For example, the first animal we “visited” was a wolverine named Hyde. Her hilly enclosure provided her with her own personal treadmill of sorts. From what we could gather, she truly enjoyed a good run either back and forth across the top of the hill or up and down it!
Showing off the possom fangs (don’t worry, while he looks a little uncomfortable, he was fine with it…)
The pair of moose had a large enclosure packed full of trees for them to scratch up against while the bear and cougar pen had a cozy little nook and tree-like perch for the feisty cat. Each enclosure was accompanied by information about the species, a personal bio of each animal and some sponsorship information. The Centre runs on private donations from companies and individuals, through admission fees and school and community outreach program fees. The Centre also allows its animals to star in properly supervised documentary films. Many animals have been saved from horrible lives as a result of the caring staff at this park. Though some animals are ex-pets or ex-zoo residents, some have been severely abused (and have disabilities as a result of poor nutrition or care), while others were left abandoned by parents who were killed by cars/humans. However, the animals are socialized and seem relatively domesticated due to the fact that they’ve been hand-raised—this is very evident from some of the photos in the “Photo Gallery” they have on the wall of the main building! We especially loved the pics where people were holding, hugging, or hanging out these once-wild animals.
Muskoka Wildlife Centre- Snake
Muskoka Wildlife Centre- Flower the Skunk
By the end of our walk through the park, we’d encountered eagles, wolves, bobcats, foxes, moose, a lynx, and a wolverine. Of course, we would have also seen some beavers, a bear and porcupines had the weather been a wee bit more cooperative/warm!
What a place to bring kids—this park would be the main topic of conversation around the house for a month! The kids we saw along the way had the I-just-ate-a-ton-of-candy-rush look about them but without the sugar. It was fantastic to see kids so excited and interested in each animal’s story. The bios can be viewed online too but we suggest waiting until you “meet the creature” to check them out!
Cost of admission to the Centre is $10.75 for adults, $8.75 for teens and $7.75 for children. They do offer a family admission ticket for $37 which covers 2 adults and up to three children. The park is open from the May long weekend to the October long weekend and on weekends in the off-season. The inside scoop from one of the park staff members is that the animals are particularly perky and energetic in the spring time!