The Wilds, located in a scenic rural area of southeastern Ohio near Cumberland, includes nearly 10,000 acres of unclaimed mine land that today is a private, nonprofit conservation center. More than 2,000 acres have been developed into pastures and a Carnivore Conservation Center, medical and research facilities for the wild animals, and today it is the largest wildlife conservation center in North America. The center is a partnership with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and is open for wild animal tours, hiking and biking, horseback riding, ziplining and educational activities from May through October. A few yurts can be rented for overnight stays, and the lodge is open year-round.
Our visit happened May 19, 2016, together with daughter-in-law Lilla Ryan and her brother, Iain Frerichs. It's about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Lilla's home, much of it on Interstate 77. We'd been waiting for a day before school is out to go, and when Lilla called to make a reservation for an open-bus tour, she was told there was no need this time of year; they guaranteed we'd get on a bus on a walk-in basis.
And we did. Arriving around 12:30 p.m., we didn't have much of a wait for pick-up at the visitor center; ultimately, our bus carried 19 passengers with plenty of room for more. The tour took about 2 1/2 hours up hills and down, with a couple of comfort stops along the way. How well the animals can be seen depends, we learned, on how close to the roads they happen to be. The property is quite expansive - protected with electrified fencing and remote-controlled gates to allow vehicles to pass through - so we were happy we'd toted along cameras with longer-distance zoom lenses.
We saw quite a few animals, even if most were from some distance, and the beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid- to high-60s made for a comfortable ride. The scenery, which includes several lakes, is spectacular, so we were happy with our landscape shots as well. At the end of the tour, we had a late lunch/early dinner in one of the cafeterias, where the food was quite tasty and not overpriced (a very large burger and fries goes for something like $6.99).
Keywords:Ohio, The Wilds, animals, conservation, wildlife
© Monnie Ryan