Years ago, Olympic Game Farm was a home for actors. The bears, cougars, and big cats who lived on the premises were all movie stars?most often for Disney Studios, which worked with and filmed the farm's animals for 28 years. The farm's founder, Lloyd Beebe, served as the go-to trainer, and his bond with the wildlife was reputedly amazing. During those early years, he even managed to tame five wolverines, who would eat raw egg out of his hands.
Today, Lloyd's grandson Robert runs the farm. For the most part, the animals are no longer film celebrities?although footage of the famous waving bears has gone viral and even appeared in a Carrie Underwood video, and some animal actors from elsewhere still retire to the farm. The majority are descendants of the original film animals, or rescues. Visitors can drive through the park to see zebras, elk, wolves, and lions, then head to the petting farm for an up-close encounter. They can even feed many of the animals?whole-grain bread is an accepted treat.
"The Reptile Man" Scott Petersen melds his passions for both education and reptiles at his zoo, which he calls the Serpentarium, where kids can touch or hold certain inhabitants. Inside, snakes, lizards, gators, and turtles slowly slither or amble around their enclosures, visible to curious eyes. Some of the deadliest snakes in the world?such as the horned viper?live on site, all de-venomized with only their angsty poetry left as weapons. The zoo is also home to invertebrates, including some of the planet's biggest spiders, centipedes, and cockroaches. An onsite party room hosts birthday bashes with a focus on education and absolutely no snakes hiding in the cake.
As strange as it may sound, at Cougar Mountain Zoo, you just might be greeted by a big cat purring. Cougars are among the largest cats capable of true purring, and Cougar Mountain Zoo boasts a distinct subspecies of these overgrown felines, which prowl all over the zoo's award-winning World of Cougars exhibit.
Next to the mountain lions dwell their distant cousins, Bengal tigers, who sprawl out on the green grass or press their noses up to a thick wall of glass separating visitors from the wild animals. Other residents of the zoo include a barrel of endangered lemurs from Madagascar, a crowd of fluffy alpacas, and the country's largest herd of reindeer, who star in the annual Reindeer Festival and deliver presents to all the other animals.
The zoo also boasts a collection of bronze animal statues, a library of wildlife tracks, and a museum that explores not only the world of wildlife, but also the threats they face from human incursion.
Today, ?1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are threatened with extinction.? But collective efforts and targeted conservation can help save them. Conservationists Gord and Yvonne Blankstein truly believe in these restorative efforts, and they founded Mountain View Conservation & Breeding Centre in 1986 to help rare and exotic species breed, learn calculus, and return to the wild. From its 300-acre campus in the Fraser Valley, Mountain View safeguards several species, including some of the most endangered wildlife species in British Columbia?the Northern spotted owl and the Vancouver Island marmot?along with 35 species of exotic birds breeding at the conservatory. Once animals can survive, staff members return them to their natural habitats around North America. Mountain View also sponsors educational tours of its facility to raise awareness about conserving wildlife and natural habitats.
Honeybee Centre buzzes with professional apiarists and busy hives, which work together to support Surrey's agriculture and inform the next generation of beekeepers. Most of the staff's time is spent renting out hives to pollinate fruit crops, then harvesting the resulting honey?whether from blueberry, cherry, or pumpkin plants?to sell in their store. The insect experts also provide an extermination alternative by removing and relocating pesky colonies of bees and wasps.
Additionally, the centre devotes significant resources to education, whether through kid-friendly exhibits or basic to advanced beekeeping courses, which help students manage their own hives and join in the bees' ritual dances. In the Bees & Bugs lab, kids of all ages tackle hands-on educational activities and watch live bees and other bugs. Afterwards, visitors can relax in the centre's Tea Hive Caf?, noshing on cookies or pie while sipping locally roasted coffee in a greenhouse.